Emirati Interpol president targeted by complaints in Austria over torture and arbitrary detention

The annual general meeting of the international police organization opens tomorrow (Tuesday) in Vienna, where two complaints have been filed against the Emirati president of the organization.

The president of Interpol, Emirati Ahmed Nasser al-Raisi, in November 2021. A general assembly of the organisation opens in Vienna on 28 November 2023 and two complaints have been filed against him by two Britons, adding to the numerous accusations of human rights violations already made against him. via REUTERS - INTERPOL

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Ahmed Nasser al-Raisi, an Emirati, was elected head of Interpol in November 2021, despite protests from human rights organizations. As Inspector General of the Ministry of Interior in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), known as the Chief of Police, he was accused of leading a ferocious crackdown on political opponents and human rights activists and several complaints had already been filed against him.

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Two new complaints await him in Vienna. At a press conference in Lyon, the headquarters of Interpol, in October 2021, the two complainants, both Britons, testified about the arbitrary detentions and torture they said they had been subjected to in 2018 and 2019.

The Viennese complaint is based on "universal jurisdiction", a principle that allows authorities to prosecute if the suspect travels to the country, their lawyer said on Monday, on the eve of the opening of the organisation's general assembly in which Ahmed Nasser al-Raisi is due to participate. "We hope that the Austrian authorities will investigate these serious allegations," Rodney Dixon said in a statement.

Matthew Hedges, a researcher, and Ali Issa Ahmad, a security guard, were both arrested in the United Arab Emirates, in 2018 and 2019 respectively. The former, a lecturer at the University of Exeter in southwestern England, told AFP last year that he had been arrested at the end of a study trip. He described seven "terrifying" months in detention, mostly in solitary confinement, with "threats of violence" to get him to confess to alleged membership of the British intelligence services. After what he said was a forced confession, he was sentenced to life in prison for espionage in November 2018, but pardoned less than a week later under international pressure.

The second, a football fan, claims to have been arrested for wearing a jersey in support of Qatar, which was then at loggerheads with the United Arab Emirates, during the Asian Cup of Nations. He said he was punched and stabbed during his nearly three weeks in detention.

Both believe that as inspector general of the Ministry of the Interior, Mr. Raisi bears responsibility for the ill-treatment. The complaint filed on Monday also includes the case of Ahmed Jaafar Mohamed Ali, a "dissident" from Bahrain who has been detained since January 2022. Convicted of "terrorism-related offences", he was arrested in Serbia where he had applied for asylum under an Interpol Red Notice before being extradited to the Gulf kingdom.

France also seized

Also seized by the lawyer of the two Britons, France opened an investigation against him in March 2022 for "complicity in torture". Ahmed Nasser al-Raisi is the subject of a preliminary investigation by the National Anti-Terrorism Prosecutor's Office, PNAT, for further allegations of torture filed by the NGO Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), concerning Ahmed Mansour, one of the leading human rights defenders in the United Arab Emirates.

Contacted by Agence France Presse, the Vienna prosecutor's office and the United Arab Emirates embassy in Vienna did not immediately respond.

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