Global police agency Interpol has elected UAE Inspector General Ahmed Naser al-Raisi, who has been accused of overseeing torture, as its new president.
Raisi, who has been part of the UAE’s police force since 1980 and serves as inspector general at the country’s ministry of interior, received 68.9% of the vote at Interpol’s general assembly in Istanbul. The role is largely ceremonial — he will chair the general assembly as well as three executive committee meetings for each of the four years of his tenure.
The vote went through despite criminal cases made by ex-detainees. Matthew Hedges, who was detained in the UAE for seven months, filed a claim for damages at the High Court of London against Raisi and several other senior Emirati officials. He accused them of assault, torture and false imprisonment.
Hedges returned to the United Kingdom in November 2018 after he was pardoned from a life sentence for espionage. The UAE had released a video depicting him apparently confessing that he was a member of the UK’s MI6 intelligence agency.
“The inevitable election of Raisi to Interpol presidency is a serious attack on the values it stands for,” Hedges said in a tweet on Thursday. “His complicity in systematic torture and abuse is legitimised through Interpol and gives the green light to other authoritarian states that they can act without impunity.”
The UAE has denied allegations that Hedges was subjected to physical or psychological mistreatment during his detention.
Hedges said this week that he and another ex-detainee, Ali Issa Ahmad, also filed a criminal case with Turkish prosecutors. Ahmad, 29, said he was detained in 2019 during a holiday in the UAE because he wore a T-shirt with a Qatar flag, during the diplomatic row between the two countries. He said he was electrocuted and beaten, as well as deprived of food, water and sleep.
Ahmad was in the country attending the Asia Cup.
The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said in a statement that “any legal complaint that may be filed with allegations against al-Raisi is without merit and will be rejected.”
“He strongly believes that the abuse or mistreatment of people by police is abhorrent and intolerable,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, Raisi has vowed to build a “more transparent, diverse, and decisive” Interpol.
“I am delighted to have been elected as President today, and it is the honor of my career to serve citizens across the world, on behalf of the UAE,” Raisi said in a statement.
The elections have been postponed by a year due to the pandemic. In October 2020, 19 human rights groups criticized Raisi’s candidacy for Interpol president, saying his presidency would “both undermine the mission and reputation of Interpol and severely impact the ability of the organization to carry out its mission effectively and in good faith.”