(CNN) – Global law enforcement agency Interpol elected UAE Inspector General Ahmed Naser al-Raisi, who has been accused of overseeing torture, as its new president.
Raisi, who has been part of the UAE’s police force since 1980 and serves as an inspector general in the country’s Interior Ministry, received 68.9% of the vote at Interpol’s general assembly in Istanbul.
The role is largely ceremonial: He will chair the general assembly as well as three executive committee meetings during each of the four years of his tenure.
The vote passed despite criminal cases filed by former detainees. Matthew Hedges, who was detained in the UAE for seven months, filed a claim for damages in the London High Court against Raisi and several other high-ranking Emirati officials.
He accused them of assault, torture and illegal imprisonment. Hedges returned to the UK in November 2018 after he was pardoned of a life sentence for espionage. The UAE had posted a video showing him apparently confessing that he was a member of the UK’s MI6 intelligence agency.
“The inevitable election of Raisi to the Interpol presidency is a serious attack on the values he stands for,” Hedges said in a tweet on Thursday. “Their complicity in torture and systematic abuse is legitimized through Interpol and gives the green light to other authoritarian states so that they can act without impunity.”
The United Arab Emirates has denied allegations that Hedges was subjected to physical or psychological abuse during his detention.
Hedges said this week that he and another former detainee, Ali Issa Ahmad, also brought a criminal case to Turkish prosecutors. Ahmad, 29, said he was detained in 2019 during a holiday in the United Arab Emirates because he was wearing a shirt with a Qatari flag, during the diplomatic dispute between the two countries. He said he was electrocuted and beaten, as well as deprived of food, water and sleep.
Ahmad was in the country attending the Asian Cup.
The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said in a statement that “any legal complaint that may be filed with charges against al-Raisi is unfounded and will be rejected.”
“He strongly believes that the abuse or mistreatment of people by the police is abhorrent and intolerable,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, Raisi has pledged to build a “more transparent, diverse and decisive” Interpol.
“I am delighted to have been elected president today, and it is my career honor to serve the citizens of the world on behalf of the United Arab Emirates,” Raisi said in a statement.
The elections had been postponed for a year due to the pandemic. In October 2020, 19 human rights groups criticized Raisi’s candidacy for Interpol’s presidency, saying that his presidency would “undermine Interpol’s mission and reputation and seriously affect the organization’s ability to carry out its mission effectively. and in good faith. ”