Maj. Gen. Dr. Ahmed Naser Al-Raisi was elected head of Interpol Thursday despite criticisms of his human rights record. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons
Nov. 25 (UPI) -- The newly elected head of a global police agency has come under criticism for turning a blind eye to reports of torture while serving as a general for the United Arab Emirates.
Maj. Gen. Dr. Ahmed Naser Al-Raisi was elected president of Interpol on Thursday with 68.9% of votes cast after three rounds of voting by member countries during a meeting in Istanbul, Turkey. The position is part-time and unpaid.
After his election, Raisi said on Twitter that he would "build a more transparent, diverse, and decisive organization that works to ensure safety for all."
During the spring, Human Rights Watch and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights spoke out against Raisi's candidacy for the position. The groups argued that as inspector general at the UAE Interior Ministry he failed to investigate credible complaints of tortute of and other human rights abuses committed by security forces against peaceful critics of the government.
"A sad day for human rights and the rule of law worldwide, when a representative of arguably the most authoritarian government in the Gulf, one that equates peaceful dissent with terrorism, is elected to head the only police organization that spans the entire globe," Hiba Zayadin, Human Rights Watch gulf reseacher, said on Twitter following his election.
The UAE pushed back on the criticism. In a statement to the BBC the country's foreign ministry said Raisi "strongly believes that the abuse or mistreatment by police is abhorrent and intolerable." In another statement, he called the UAE "one of the world's safest places" that continues to be the "most important force for positive change in the world's most difficult region."
Lawyers for the Gulf Centre for Human Rights have recently brought legal actions against Raisi in Turkey and France, accusing him of being involved in the unlawful arrest and torture of Ahmed Mansoor, a the UAE's most prominent human rights activist, the BBC reports.