A former director of public prosecutions in the U.K. has called on governments to reject an apparent bid by the UAE to install one of its senior police officers as the next president of Interpol, the international policing body.
The organisation was due to hold a general assembly in the UAE last year where the 194 member states would elect its next president, but the meeting was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. It is expected to go ahead later this year, although no date has yet been announced.
The process of electing a president is an opaque one and candidates’ names are not publicly disclosed. To date, just two people have emerged as likely candidates: the UAE’s Major General Dr Ahmed Naser Al-Raisi, who has a professional-looking personal website, and Nigeria’s Commissioner Olushola Subair. (Interpol has previously defended its election process against past criticism).
In a report issued today, called Undue Influence: the UAE and Interpol, Sir David Calvert-Smith draws attention to a large donation made by the UAE to Interpol in 2017, accusations of human rights violations made against the UAE and its controversial use of the organisation’s ‘Red Notice’ system.
In March 2017, the UAE said it would contribute AED 197 million ($53.6 million) to the Interpol Foundation for a Safer World to support seven projects, covering counter-terrorism, cybercrime, cultural heritage, vulnerable communities, vehicle crime, drugs and illicit goods.
The report also cites a number of high-profile of cases of foreigners who say they were detained and tortured by the UAE police, including UK citizens Matthew Hedges and Ali Issa Ahmad, as well as some local nationals. “It is difficult to reconcile public statements of tolerance with the continued detention of pro-democracy campaigner Ahmed Mansoor and others such as Nasser bin Ghaith,” the report says.
In terms of Red Notices, the UAE is accused of misusing the process. The notices are meant to alert authorities around the world to a wanted person who is suspected or convicted of a serious crime and not used for private disputes unless they are linked to serious or organised crime. However, the report points to the case of Robert Urwin, who was arrested 13 years after a cheque bounced in the UAE. “The UAE is therefore using the Red Notice system as a debt collection agency,” the report says.
Influential but unpaid
The presidency is an unpaid, part-time post – the day-to-day running of the organisation is handled by the secretary-general – but the president nonetheless has some significant influence. Among other things, they chair meetings of the general assembly and the organisation’s executive committee. “I believe the president in an influential figure,” said Sir David. ” He presides over all the important meetings.”
The role has been at the centre of controversy in the recent past, with China’s Meng Hongwei disappearing on a trip back to his country in 2018 – he was later convicted on bribery charges and sentenced to 13 years in jail by a Chinese court. Following that, there was strong opposition to a proposal for Russia’s Alexander Prokopchuk to take over the role of president; in the end he lost out to Kim Jong Yang of South Korea.
This is not the first time Al-Raisi has been the centre of criticism over his bid for the Interpol presidency. In October last year, a number of advocacy groups wrote to Interpol secretary-general Jurgen Stock expressing concern over the potential appointment.
“The reality remains that the UAE has a poor record on human rights, criminal justice, and the use of Interpol Red Notices,” Sir David writes in his conclusion. “Major General Al-Raisi is unsuitable for the role. He sits at the very top of the Emirati criminal justice system. He has overseen an increased crackdown on dissent, continued torture, and abuses in its criminal justice system.”
Sir David’s report was funded by unnamed human rights advocates.