World Interpol Elections Shine Harsh Light on Authoritarian Regimes
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A United Arab Emirates (UAE) official's push to become president of Interpol has raised concerns about the influence of authoritarianism within the international policing organization.
Ahmed Naser al-Raisi is the inspector general of the UAE's interior ministry, in charge of detentions and security operations in that country. Al-Raisi could become the new head of Interpol pending elections within the organization's General Assembly on Thursday.
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However, many critics and dissidents have opposed al-Raisi's campaign, and many continue to decry his potential rise to the presidency of the organization based in Lyons, France.
Al-Raisi's campaign comes as the UAE continues to be accused of numerous human rights violations by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. In October 2020, 19 NGOs sent a letter to Interpol opposing al-Raisi, stating that his presidency would "damage Interpol's reputation and stand in great contradiction to the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the organization's mission."
The letter also noted the UAE's "poor human rights record, including the systematic use of torture and ill-treatment in state security facilities," and stated that al-Raisi "is part of a security apparatus that continues to systematically target peaceful critics, rendering civic space virtually non-existent."
The International Community Must Resist China's Abuse of Interpol | Opinion
Authoritarian states around the world are using Interpol as a weapon to target dissidents, opposition figures and vulnerable communities who have sought sanctuary abroad. In order to meet its stated commitment to protect human rights, the international community must act.Bradley Jardine is a global fellow at the Wilson Center's Kissinger Institute on China and the United States and director of research at the Oxus Society for Central Asian Affairs. Follow him on Twitter @Jardine_bradley.
As the election nears, many governments have expressed concern about the potential rise of authoritarianism within Interpol if al-Raisi were to be elected.
A group of German politicians released a statement saying that "given the devastating human rights record of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the appointment of Mr Al-Raisi as president would be in blatant contradiction to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the organization's mission."
Issues have been brought up not only from state officials, but from people who have had experience with the UAE's human rights abuses firsthand.
British political scientist Matthew Hedges was arrested in Dubai, UAE, in 2018, accused of spying for the United Kingdom, and sentenced to life in prison. While he was soon pardoned following pressure from the U.K., Hedges worries that al-Raisi could drastically hurt Interpol's operations.
Interpol election raises rights concerns about fair policing
PARIS (AP) — Human rights groups and Western lawmakers are warning that Interpol’s powerful network of global police officers could end up under the sway of authoritarian governments, as the world police agency meets in Istanbul this week to elect new leadership. Representatives of countries like China and the United Arab Emirates are bidding for top posts in the France-based policing body when its general assembly convenes in Turkey on Tuesday. Interpol says it refuses to be used for political ends.
"[Al-Raisi] is responsible for torture. How can such a man become one of the world's leading police officers? It's ridiculous," Hedges said in an interview.
The UAE is not the only country where dissidents fear authoritarianism could impact Interpol.
China has been particularly named as one of the nations that has attempted to involve itself within Interpol the most. The organization's previous president, Meng Hongwei, was accused of transforming the mostly ceremonial position into one of significant influence.
Hongwei was eventually arrested for corruption in 2018 by Chinese Presidentand sentenced to 13 years in prison.
Interpol has also seen increasing pressure from Russia. The country attempted to slip a Russian official into the presidency after Hongwei's removal, but human rights groups stopped the plot over fears of corruption within Russia.
Despite its international effort towards policing, Interpol has long been considered a potential target for strongmen and authoritarian governments. Despite the organization claiming that it operates "in the spirit" of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, numerous governments accused of human rights abuses are currently members of Interpol.
Human rights groups sound alarm over Interpol election
Two candidates in the running to be the next president of Interpol have met with widespread opposition from human rights activists.The concerns have centered on Major General Ahmed Naser Al Raisi, of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Hu Binchen, of China, two of three candidates currently in the running for the position.Two British men who were formerly imprisoned in the UAE have accused Al Raisi of torture and have filed legal complaints against him in the UK, France, Sweden and Norway, according to The Guardian. Al Raisi is currently the inspector general at the UAE's interior ministry."He is absolutely responsible for torture.
In recent years, countries have been accused of using Interpol to round up political enemies. This includes the reported use of false arrests and imprisonments by authoritarian nations such as Iran, Turkey, Belarus and Kazakhstan.
Newsweek has reached out to Interpol for comment.
Interpol elects UAE official as president ignoring outcry from rights groups .
Global police agency Interpol has elected UAE Inspector General Ahmed Naser al-Raisi as its new president, flouting concerns by human rights groups about the country's rights record.Raisi, who has been part of the UAE's police force since 1980 and serves as inspector general at the country's ministry of interior, received 68.9% of the vote at Interpol's general assembly in Istanbul. The role is largely ceremonial -- he will chair the general assembly as well as three executive committee meetings for each of the four years of his tenure.