The President of Interpol, Ahmed Nasser al-Raisi, has been charged in Austria, marking the fifth such complaint of this nature. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons/ Ipixelpro/ CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)
30 Nov 2023
Amid preparations for the four-day Interpol General Assembly in Vienna, which also celebrates the 100th anniversary of the founding of the International Police Organization, a serious charge has been brought against Interpol President Major General Ahmed Naser Al-Raisi. Two Britons, Matthew Hedges and Ali Issa Ahmad, have filed a criminal complaint in Vienna against Al-Raisi, who is accused of being responsible for the torture of numerous people during his time as head of the security forces in the United Arab Emirates.
"These allegations are not new; torture charges have already been brought against Al-Raisi in five countries, as reported by "Der Spiegel". His election as head of Interpol in 2021 took place despite these allegations and was accompanied by generous donations from the Gulf monarchy to Interpol. The United Arab Emirates has denied all allegations.
The charges in Vienna were brought under the principle of universal jurisdiction, as Al-Raisi is currently in the city for the General Assembly. "There is no immunity from prosecution for torture," emphasizes lawyer Rodney Dixon, who represents the victims, as reported by the newspaper "DerStandard".
Ali Issa Ahmad, a former security guard from Birmingham, was arrested and tortured in 2019 after a soccer match in Dubai on the pretext of wearing a Qatari T-shirt. Ahmad shows harrowing photos of his injuries and describes the brutal methods of torture, including electric shocks.
Matthew Hedges, a PhD student, was arrested on espionage charges in the UAE in 2018 and endured nearly seven months in solitary confinement, during which he was subjected to psychological torture and forced confessions. Both victims still suffer from post-traumatic stress.
The controversy surrounding Al-Raisi widens as the case of Bahraini regime critic Ahmed Jaafar Mohamed Ali is also mentioned, who was put on Interpol's wanted list shortly after Al-Raisi took office and sentenced to life imprisonment in Bahrain.
In France, the public prosecutor's office has already opened an investigation against Al-Raisi as reported by the "DerStandard". Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock declined to comment on the allegations but emphasized the care with which wanted persons' requests are examined.
Controversy surrounding Al-Raisi's candidacy for the presidency of Interpol
Ahmed Naser Al-Raisi, the official candidate of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the presidency of Interpol in 2022, was at the center of international criticism. Accused of having committed torture, human rights groups rejected his candidacy. An alliance of 19 organizations, including Human Rights Watch and the Gulf Center for Human Rights, advised against his appointment in an open letter. A report by former British Chief Prosecutor David Calvert-Smith questioned Al-Raisi's suitability for the post. Matthew Hedges, one of his alleged torture victims, appealed to Interpol members not to elect Al-Raisi.
Al-Raisi has been sued in several countries. Hedges' and Ali Ahmad's lawyers called for his arrest in Sweden and Norway during his campaign tour. In November 2021, three members of the German parliament expressed concerns that Al-Raisi's election could jeopardize Interpol's reputation and violate the organization's basic laws. French lawmakers asked President Emmanuel Macron to oppose Al-Raisi's candidacy.
Despite the controversy, Al-Raisi won the election in Istanbul with around 69% of the vote and was elected for a four-year term. He is the first candidate from the Middle East to be elected president. His largely ceremonial role was emphasized by Interpol, but he showed interest in changing Interpol's policies, particularly about the use of modern technology."