UAE candidate for Interpol chief is 'mockery' of justice, says lawyer representing British torture victims

UAE candidate for Interpol chief is 'mockery' of justice, says lawyer representing British torture victims
A lawyer representing two British citizens, tortured and detained in the UAE, slammed the potential appointment of Emirati official Ahmed Naser Al-Raisi as Interpol chief for 'making a mockery' of international criminal justice.
3 min read
04 October, 2021
UAE offical Al-Raisi is currently a leading candidate for the position of Interpol president [Getty]

A lawyer for two British citizens, detained and tortured in the UAE, has told The New Arab that the appointment of Emirati official Ahmed Naser Al-Raisi as Interpol chief "will make a mockery of the entire international criminal justice system". 

Rodney Dixon QC, who represents Matthew Hedges and Ali Issa Ahmad - both previously detained in UAE - said that Al-Raisi, the inspector general at the Emirati interior ministry, should not be able to travel the world with impunity following allegations of torture. 

Dixon's legal team filed a universal jurisdiction complaint against several UAE officials including Al- Raisi on 1 October in Paris.

This could lead to the Emirati - a leading candidate for Interpol's next president - being arrested and questioned if he sets foot on French soil.

Interpol's headquarters are located in Lyon, France. 

"It is vital that the doctrine of universal jurisdiction over the most serious international crimes is implemented in practice to prevent alleged torturers from travelling around the world with impunity," said Dixon to The New Arab.

"In this case, the candidate for the president of the world's police force should not be allowed to evade the powers of the national police of our countries to do their rightful job." 

Matthew Hedges, a PhD student, was arrested in the UAE in 2018 on a research trip and later sentenced to life in prison on false charges of spying for the British government.

While detained, he was tortured and placed in solidarity confinement, according to his legal team. International pressure on the UAE secured his release. 

"I actually cannot believe that almost three years after I was finally released, I have to travel to the headquarters of Interpol to ask them not to make one of the men responsible for my torture their next president," said Hedges speaking at a press conference outside Interpol HQ on Friday. 

Ali Issa Ahmad was detained in the UAE in 2019 for wearing a t-shirt with the flag of Qatar during the Asian Cup football tournament.

His lawyers said he was beaten by plain-clothed officers and stabbed in prison. Again, international outrage led to his release. 

"The Interpol Presidency should not be given to people who abuse their power, and break laws by punishing and torturing innocent people like me and Matthew," said Ahmad at Friday’s press conference.  

Both men have filed civil cases in UK courts against the same individuals from the UAE. 

Al-Raisi has been responsible for investigating complaints against police and security forces in the UAE as part of his role as inspector general since April 2015.

Human Rights Watch says that "the UAE state security apparatus has a long record of multiple abuses".

Earlier this year, another universal jurisdiction complaint was submitted against Al-Raisi by a lawyer who represents activist Ahmed Mansoor. 

Mansoor, a 51-year-old Emirati and father of four, is imprisoned in the UAE for what Human Rights Watch described as "peaceful criticism of the government and his modest calls for human rights reform". 

Al-Raisi has promised to use the latest "cutting-edge technologies" to catch criminals as Interpol chief, according to a piece by him in The National. His plan is to "modernise and transform" the organisation.

Interpol will elect its next president in November 2021. 

In the meantime, French prosecutors will be looking at evidence and other information submitted against Al-Raisi, said Dixon’s legal team to The New Arab.