Interpol has played down a controversy around the newly elected president of the international police organisation.
Emirati general Ahmed Al-Raisi, who has been accused of overseeing torture, was today chosen for the role.
"At this stage, it is an accusation, but of course, we are well aware," said Interpol's Secretary-General, Jürgen Stock, responding to a question about whether the election undermined the credibility of the Lyon-based organisation.
"There is also the presumption of innocence, but the general assembly has taken a decision today and elected Al-Raisi as the new president of Interpol."
Al-Raisi, inspector general at the United Arab Emirates interior ministry, was already a member of Interpol’s executive committee.
He has been linked to the torture of high-profile political prisoners at home, including Ahmed Mansoor, an Emirati dissident, and Michael Hedges, a British academic that was accused of spying in 2018 and sentenced to life imprisonment. Hedges was later pardoned, but Mansoor remains in jail.
Criminal complaints have been filed against him in five countries, including in France, where Interpol has its headquarters, and in Turkey where the election took place.
"The general assembly has elected 11 new members. The executive committee is composed of 13 members, four from Europe, three from Asia, three from Africa, and three from the Americas who are presided by the President of Interpol, who is also the chair of the supervisory body, the chair of the General Assembly," Stock explained.
"But no member of the executive committee is involved in the day-to-day work. That is my role as Secretary-General.
"I'm continuing my work with the executive committee. We have been introducing just here in Istanbul important reforms on the governance of the organisation, strongly strengthening the accountability, integrity, transparency, and neutrality of the organisation.
"We have been also endorsing a significant increase in our statutory contributions here. And so that indicates the trust that the organisation and its 195 member countries are placing in the day-to-day functioning of the organisation."