Human rights groups and Western lawmakers are warning that Interpol’s powerful network of global police officers could fall under the influence of authoritarian governments, as the world police agency meets in Istanbul this week to elect a new leadership.
Delegates from countries such as China and the United Arab Emirates are bidding for top positions in the France-based police body when its general assembly is convened in Turkey on Tuesday.
Interpol says it has denied being used for political purposes. Critics argue that if these candidates win instead of hunting down drug smugglers, human traffickers, war crimes suspects and alleged extremists, their countries are likely to deport dissidents and even political opponents at home. Interpol’s global reach.
Two candidates have drawn particular criticism: Major General Ahmed Nasser al-Raisi, Inspector General in the UAE Ministry of the Interior, who is seeking to be elected chairman of Interpol for a four-year term; And Hu Binchen, an official at China’s Ministry of Public Security, is expected to be drawn to a vacant position on Interpol’s executive committee.
A vote is expected on Thursday. The Chairman and Executive Committee of Interpol set the policy and direction. He also supervises the Secretary General of the body who handles the day-to-day operations and is its public face. That position is filled by German officer Juergen Stock.
Al-Raisi is accused of torture and has criminal complaints against him in five countries, including France, where Interpol is headquartered, and Turkey, where elections are being held.
And Hu has the backing of China’s government, which is suspected to have used a global police agency to trace exiled dissidents and banish its citizens.
Hiring a hoo can be fraught with risk – possibly including for oneself. China’s Meng Hongwei was elected chairman of Interpol in 2016, only to disappear on a return trip to China two years later. He is now serving a 13½-year prison sentence for corruption, allegations his wife, Grace Meng, who is now living in France with their children under police protection, insisted in an interview with The Associated Press. That he was crushed and politically motivated.
Al-Raisi, already a member of Interpol’s executive committee, claimed in a LinkedIn post on Saturday that the UAE prioritizes “protection of human rights at home and abroad”.
But a recent report by the MENA Rights Group describes routine rights violations by the UAE security system, with lawyers, journalists and activists being forcibly disappeared, tortured, arbitrarily detained , and peacefully threatened for basic rights and freedoms.
Matthew Hedges, a British doctoral student who was imprisoned in the UAE for nearly seven months in 2018 on espionage charges, apparently struggled at a news conference in Paris as he faced torture and solitary confinement without access to a lawyer. I was told to stay for months.
“I was given a cocktail of drugs to change my mental state,” Hedges said. “I’m still on most of this drug. I could hear screams from other rooms, and there was evidence of torture, physical torture, beatings.”
The President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, pardoned Hedges, but Emirati officials still insist that Hedges was spying for Britain’s MI6 intelligence agency, certain to back up his claims. without presenting evidence. He, his family and British diplomats have repeatedly denied the allegations.
Hedges said, “There is no way that a country’s police force that is willing to do this to foreign nationals, no matter what their own, should be accorded the honor of one of the highest positions at Interpol.” Hedges said.
“The election of al-Raisi, the man responsible for what was happening to me, would be a slap in the face of justice and an embarrassment to other police forces who believe in upholding the rule of law.”
He and fellow Briton Ali Issa Ahmed, a football fan who says he was harassed by UAE security agents during the 2019 Asia Cup football tournament, filed a lawsuit against Al-Raisi and other Emirati security officials in the UK Is. in Norway, Sweden and France.
If French prosecutors decide to pursue the case, al-Raisi could be detained and questioned about alleged crimes committed in another country if he entered France or French territory. .
Ahmed said he was attacked by UAE security agents during a match between Iraq and Qatar in Abu Dhabi. He was wearing a fan T-shirt with the Qatari flag at the time of a bitter diplomatic dispute between Qatar and other Gulf countries.
She said agents attacked her on the beach, threw her in a car, handcuffed her and put a plastic bag over her head. Using pocketknives, he engraved the outline of the Qatari flag on his chest as he cut the emblem off his T-shirt, he said. Ahmed was jailed for two weeks and released only after pleading guilty to a charge of “wasting police time”. Police say he was already hurt when he presented himself at a police station in Sharjah.
Another torture complaint under the principle of universal jurisdiction is pending against al-Raisi in France, filed in June over the alleged torture of prominent Emirati human rights defender and blogger Ahmed Mansour, who is currently accused of insulting the “situation”. He is serving a sentence of 10 years on the charges of and the reputation of the UAE” and its leaders in social media posts.
A major concern for dissidents is the potential misuse of Interpol red notices – the equivalent of putting someone on a global “most-wanted” list, meaning a suspect could be arrested anywhere he traveled.
Interpol insists that any country’s request for a Red Notice is verified for compliance with its constitution, “which requires the organization to undertake any interference or activities of political, military, religious or racial character”. It is strictly forbidden.” But critics say that Interpol has been used for political purposes by its member governments in the past, and it could get worse under the new leadership.
Al-Raisi has run a cunning campaign for the presidency, traveling the world meeting lawmakers and government officials and boasting academic degrees from the UK and US, and years of experience policing.
In an opinion piece for the government-run newspaper in Abu Dhabi, Al-Raisi said he wants to “modernize and transform” Interpol, “the UAE’s role as a leader in technology-driven policing and in the international community.” as a bridge builder”. ,
The skyscraper city-state of the United Arab Emirates, specifically Dubai, has long been recognized as a major money-laundering hub for both criminals and rogue nations. But in recent months, Emirati police have announced several busts targeting suspected international drug dealers and gangsters living there. Residents also noted lower reported levels of street crime and harassment, possibly the effect of residency visas all being linked to employment.
Prominent French human rights lawyer William Bourdain said UAE authorities cannot hide behind the mask of modernity and progress.
“Behind the beaches and palm trees,” he said, “there are people, and they are screaming because they are being tortured.”