Two British victims have filed torture complaints against the UAE’s candidate for heading international policing body INTERPOL, Forbes reported on Friday, noting that the complaints were submitted to French prosecutors.
Matthew Hedges is a British academic arrested in the UAE in May 2018 and claimed he was held in solitary confinement, tortured and coerced into making a false confession. He attributes responsibility for what happened to him to Major General Dr Ahmed Naser Al-Raisi, the UAE’s candidate for INTERPOL.
Meanwhile, Ali Issa Ahmad said he was detained in 2019 for supporting a Qatari football team. He also alleged that he was tortured and blamed responsibility on Al-Raisi.
French lawyer Rodney Dixon submitted the complaints on behalf of the two men under the principle of universal jurisdiction, which would allow the French authorities to investigate and arrest foreign nationals for certain crimes, even if they occurred outside of France.
According to the Forbes report, Al-Raisi cannot claim immunity as he is not a head of state, and if the case was taken by France, Al-Raisi could be arrested and questioned on entering French territory, including Lyon, where INTERPOL is headquartered.
It was not the first complaint that could block Al-Raisi from heading INTERPOL, as a group of 35 members of French Parliament wrote to President Emmanuel Macron asking him to oppose Al-Raisi’s nomination.
In April, as reported by Forbes, a former director of public prosecutions in the UK also called on INTERPOL members to reject Al-Raisi’s candidacy, in a report that drew attention to alleged human rights violations by the UAE.
In June, a lawyer representing human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor, who is spending ten years in prison over social media posts, also made a universal jurisdiction complaint against Al-Raisi in France, based on allegations of the torture of his client.
Hedges and Ahmad’s legal teams have also filed civil cases in the UK against several UAE officials, including Al-Raisi.
Speaking at a press conference in Lyon yesterday, Hedges stated: “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.”
The presidency of INTERPOL is an unpaid, part-time post, with the day-to-day running of the organisation handled by a secretary-general.
The president, nonetheless, has significant influence, presiding over meetings of INTERPOL’s general assembly and executive committee.
French Deputy Hubert Julien-Laferrière confirmed on Friday that he and other MPs had written to Macron to ask that Paris oppose Al-Raisi’s nomination, but there has been no response, News in 24 reported.
“France’s arms sales to the United Arab Emirates certainly explain a large part of the silence of the French authorities,” Julien-Laferrière remarked, fearing that the UAE will achieve its ends as “second INTERPOL contributor”.