Despite the cries of alarm from human rights defenders in recent months, the Emirati General Ahmed Nasser Al-Raisi has just been elected president of Interpol on Thursday, on the occasion of the General Assembly of the organization, in Istanbul. Long seen as the favorite of the vote, the ex-candidate had been unanimously condemned by specialized NGOs, because of the accusations of torture to which he is the subject.
“The great international institutions need to have at their head people endowed with integrity and probity beyond all suspicion. From this point of view, the election of General Al-Raisi is an added shame. to be a great blow to the credibility of Interpol “, denounces Master William Bourdon, lawyer specializing in human rights, who filed a complaint in France against him, on behalf of the NGO Gulf Center For Human Rights .
The latter accuses him, among other things, of “acts of torture and barbarism” against the opponent Ahmed Mansoor, detained since 2017 in the United Arab Emirates in particularly sordid conditions. The human rights activist would, according to the NGO, be imprisoned in a 4m2 cell, “without a mattress or protection against the cold”, or “access to a doctor, to hygiene, to water and to sanitation facilities”. Likewise, another complaint was lodged by British national Matthew Hedges, who claims to have been detained and tortured in 2018 in the Emirates, following an arrest on false charges of espionage during a trip to ‘studies.
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The election of Al-Raisi will, in this context, permanently tarnish the image of Interpol, already damaged by the election as its head in 2016 of Chinese Meng Hongwei, in view of China’s poor record in terms of respect for human rights – he then disappeared in 2018, before being convicted of corruption in his country.
“It is a real danger for the organization because criticism of Al-Raisi involves human rights violations. The reputation of the agency had already been weakened by his candidacy, but his election could lead to police of certain States to reconsider their cooperation with the headquarters of Interpol “, underlines Mathieu Deflem, professor at the University of South Carolina and specialist of the institution.
Lever of influence?
If the statutes of Interpol grant above all to the president an honorary role – the general secretary Jürgen Stock elected until 2024 ensuring the current affairs -, his powers within the institution should not be underestimated for all that, already warned. former British Attorney General David Calvert-Smith in a report on the organization published last April. “The post of president is highly symbolic, but it also exercises an important power in the structure of Interpol”, he explained, referring among other things to his ability to set the agenda within the agency.
“One can wonder about the complacency which could benefit the Emirates or a certain number of neighboring countries, which would seek to obtain the labeling by Interpol of prosecutions brought against their political dissidents. And conversely, there is also a concern. on the fact that requests for red notices – making it possible to request the arrest of a person – aimed at relatives of the regime are refused when they should be accepted, “points out master William Bourdon.
Meng Hongwei’s appointment in November 2016 raised similar fears among human rights NGOs. They feared that this pure product of the Chinese security apparatus would abuse the powers of the institution to repatriate opponents who had taken refuge abroad.
In addition, there are questions around the means used by the Emirates to obtain this appointment. The country – which has taken a growing place in the agency’s operations in recent years – thus made a record donation of 50 million euros to Interpol in 2016, almost the equivalent of the statutory contributions of the 195 member countries. Despite its significant notoriety, Interpol remains a financially rather modest organization whose budget in 2021 amounted to 145 million euros.
In 2018, the Interpol General Assembly took place to Dubai, while that of 2020 was once again to be held in the Emirates before the Covid pandemic results in its indefinite postponement. “The United Arab Emirates seek to unduly influence Interpol through funding and other mechanisms,” said David Calvert-Smith in his report, adding that the country was trying “to consolidate its influence by trying to elect the General Al-Raisi as president “.
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A way, ultimately, to increase their weight on the international scene. “It’s a real risk and they have the money to finance this objective. The Emirates have everything to gain from actively participating in the operation of Interpol, in order to appear as reliable players in world affairs, points out Mathieu Deflem “But this is not the raison d’être of Interpol, which since its founding in 1923, was precisely supposed to be apolitical, and have only a purely practical vocation of applying international criminal law.”
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