Victim outcry as ‘torturer’ made head of Interpol
Arrested Britons ‘electrocuted and burned’
BRITISH victims of alleged torture yesterday condemned the election of a United Arab Emirates general as the new head of Interpol as ‘disgraceful’.
General Ahmed Nasser AlRaisi became president of the international crime fighting agency despite objections from human rights bodies, legal experts and European Parliament members.
The controversial head of security forces in the UAE is the subject of disturbing complaints alleging human rights abuses including torture and false imprisonment. He has never addressed the various claims.
His accusers include UK academic Matthew Hedges, who alleges that the police chief was ‘ultimately responsible’ for his wrongful conviction for spying and his ‘torture and detention’ for six months.
Mr Hedges – who says he was fed a cocktail of drugs, denied sleep and denied access to a shower after he was arrested at Dubai airport in 2018 – said it was a ‘disgrace and embarrassment’ that General Al-Raisi had won the international role. He added: ‘This is a sad day for international justice and global policing.
‘I don’t know how the Interpol members who voted for Al-Raisi don’t feel embarrassed.’
He asked if they thought ‘the public would just forget about everything they have seen and read’.
Mr Hedges added: ‘I really fear about what this means for people like myself who have been abused at the hands of the UAE and forced to make false confessions under torture.’
The academic was backed by fellow Briton Ali Issa Ahmad, 28, a football fan imprisoned in the UAE in 2019 after wearing a shirt in the colours of Qatar, UAE’s rival neighbouring country, to a match.
Mr Ahmad, a security guard, claims he was electrocuted, burned and stabbed and that his torture was overseen by the general.
‘It is really terrible that he has been given this honour,’ he said. ‘The UAE will use it to make the world think that they are good at policing but I will always know the truth.
‘The scars I have on my body which the UAE police left on me will always know the truth.
‘I will not stop my fight for justice for the torture and abuse I suffered under Al-Raisi’s watch.
Rodney Dixon QC, representing complainants in a fight for justice, said the general could not ‘hide from the shocking accusations’ and said Interpol must to investigate.
The UAE official’s election to the largely ceremonial four-year role, which took place in Istanbul yesterday, comes after the UAE gave tens of millions of dollars to Interpol.
Afterwards, the general tweeted that he was ‘delighted to have been elected’ so he can ‘build a more transparent, diverse and decisive organisation that works to ensure safety for all’.
But Radha Stirling, of human rights group Detained in Dubai, said the election was a ‘near-fatal blow to Interpol’s credibility’.
She added: ‘It is outrageous that an institution originally founded to uphold justice and due process has chosen as its president a man implicated in serious crimes from a country that is renowned for exploiting Interpol’s role as a means to extort and intimate innocent people.’
She said the UAE had been using Interpol’s ‘red notices’ – in effect, international wanted notices – to crack down on political opposition, using them as an instrument to ‘persecute foreigners, dissidents, journalists and academics’.
She accused Interpol of ‘empowering authoritarian regimes around the globe’ by allowing this.
A report by retired judge Sir David Calvert-Smith earlier this year also concluded that the UAE had ‘hijacked’ the red notices to put pressure on opponents and critics.
The ex-director of public prosecutions also highlighted UAE funding of Interpol, saying there was ‘coherent evidence that the UAE is seeking to influence’ the agency’.
Questioned about the general yesterday, Interpol secretary general Jurgen Stock said the agency did not get involved in politics.
‘I will not stop my fight for justice’