Ahmed Al-Raisi, an Emirati general accused of overseeing torture, has been elected as Interpol's president, the international police organisation said on Thursday.
Maj. Gen. Ahmed Naser Al-Raisi, inspector general at the United Arab Emirates interior ministry, was already a member of Interpol’s executive committee.
Al-Raisi 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.
Critics fear that he might use Interpol’s global reach to apprehend exiled dissidents and even political opponents at home, instead of hunting down drug smugglers, human traffickers, war crimes suspects and alleged extremists.
Al-Raisi’s candidacy has sparked protest in Europe. French lawmakers have appealed directly to President Emmanuel Macron to intervene. German MPs have claimed that his nomination contradicts the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
Al-Raisi says he wants to use his four-year term to modernise Interpol
The UAE has been accused of attempting to buy influence within Interpol in order to grease the wheels for al-Raisi’s candidacy, according to a recent report by Sir David Calvert-Smith, the UK’s former director of public prosecutions.
In 2017, the UAE made a €50m donation to Interpol's Foundation for a Safer World, a non-profit organisation with offices in Geneva that Calvert-Smith describes as "a channel by which to funnel cash from the UAE government into Interpol".
The election for president is being followed closely since the first-ever Chinese president of the body, Meng Hongwei, vanished midway through his term on a return trip to China in 2018.
It subsequently emerged that he had been detained, accused of bribery and other alleged crimes. Interpol then announced that Meng had resigned from the presidency.
A vice president, Kim Jong Yan from South Korea, was swiftly elected as a replacement to serve out the rest of Meng’s term.
Kim’s presidency was due to end in 2020, but his tenure has been extended by a year after the coronavirus pandemic prompted Interpol to scrap its annual assembly last year.