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Interpol: UAE Official’s Candidacy Raises Human Rights Alarms

Emirates Have Notoriously Abusive State Security Apparatus

Maj. Gen. Ahmed Naser al-Raisi. © © 2018 Ipixelpro, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

(Beirut) – The candidacy of a United Arab Emirates (UAE) Interior Ministry official for president of Interpol may jeopardize the global police organization’s commitment to its human rights obligations, Human Rights Watch and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) said today.

Maj. Gen. Ahmed Naser al-Raisi has held the high-level position of inspector general at the UAE Interior Ministry since April 2015, making him responsible, among other things, for investigating complaints against police and security forces. The UAE state security apparatus has a long record of multiple abuses.

“General al-Raisi’s selection as Interpol president would indicate that Interpol’s member states have no concern whatsoever about the record of the UAE in persecuting peaceful critics,” said Khalid Ibrahim, GCHR’s executive director. “His candidacy is yet another bid by the UAE to purchase international respectability and whitewash its deplorable human rights record.”

Elections for Interpol’s president and executive committee, originally set for December 2020 during Interpol’s general assembly and postponed due to Covid-19 restrictions, are to be held at an unspecified time later this year. A lack of oversight and transparency characterizes the election process. Interpol provides no public information about the candidates for president, and there are no candidate vetting procedures by Interpol state parties.

In a November 2020 interview in 999, a magazine published by the UAE Interior Ministry, al-Raisi confirmed his candidacy, saying, “My winning the Interpol presidency will be considered an achievement for all Arabs.”

In October 2020, Human Rights Watch and GCHR joined over a dozen other international human rights and civil society groups in delivering a letter to Interpol’s Secretary-General, Jürgen Stock, expressing concern over al-Raisi’s potential election to the Interpol presidency.

As the Interior Ministry’s inspector general, al-Raisi is responsible for managing the UAE security and police forces and investigating complaints against the police and security forces. He reports directly to Deputy Prime Minister Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Interior Minister Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Al-Raisi is a member of Interpol’s executive committee, the governing body that supervises the implementation of general assembly decisions and the work of the General Secretariat. 

Since 2011, when UAE authorities began a decade-long assault on freedom of expression and association, Human Rights Watch and GCHR have documented numerous allegations of serious abuse at the hands of state security forces, particularly against peaceful critics of government policies, including enforced disappearances and torture.

In March 2020, United Nations independent human rights experts said that the UAE should investigate and reform “degrading conditions of detention.” In January 2021, Human Rights Watch and GCHR detailed the government’s persecution of the prominent Emirati human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor, including indefinite solitary confinement and abhorrent detention conditions since his arrest in March 2017.

There has been no indication that the UAE authorities have investigated credible allegations of torture and ill-treatment at the hands of the UAE security forces for any of the many cases that Human Rights Watch and GCHR have documented over the years. According to the UAE Interior Ministry website, updated in December 2020, the Office of the Inspector General’s investigation department is responsible for receiving and investigating “complaints against the police and security services and its members.”

A report written by the United Kingdom’s former director of public prosecutions, Sir David Calvert-Smith, documents the UAE’s substantial financial contributions to Interpol since 2017. In summary, he wrote, “This report has found coherent evidence that the UAE is seeking to improperly influence Interpol through funding and other mechanisms and concludes that the UAE is seeking to cement its influence by seeking to have Major General Al-Raisi elected as President.”

Calvert-Smith concluded that al-Raisi’s election “would send a message to the world that Interpol has little or no respect for human rights and will turn a blind eye to torture and repression.”

Under Interpol’s constitution, the General Assembly elects the group’s president from among nine country delegates who, along with the president and three vice presidents, constitute the agency’s executive committee. It is Human Rights Watch and GCHR’s understanding that Interpol’s president supervises the work of the secretary-general, the day-to-day chief, and heads the executive committee, its decision-making body. 

International human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and GCHR, have criticized Interpol’s failure to address abuses by some governments of its “Red Notice” system, an international “wanted persons” list. Calvert-Smith wrote that he “found strong evidence that the UAE has misused the Red Notice system both for minor offenses and most importantly for political gain against those seen as a threat to the regime.”

In 2017, when then-Chinese Vice-Minister for Public Security Meng Hongwei was serving as Interpol president, Human Rights Watch documented China’s misuse of the police organization’s red notice system to seek the arrest and extradition of individuals. Meng was reported missing after his return to China in September 2018. Chinese authorities – while not revealing Meng’s whereabouts or status – later transmitted Meng’s resignation to Interpol. In January 2021 Meng was finally sentenced on charges of corruption.

“To again choose a top official of an abusive state institution as its president, Interpol risks jeopardizing its credibility as a rights-respecting international law enforcement agency,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

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