Interpol elected an Emirati general accused of torture as its new president on Thursday, despite the concerns of human rights organisations who fear the agency will be at risk of exploitation by repressive regimes.
The appointment follows generous funding by the United Arab Emirates for the Lyon, France-based body and accusations that Abu Dhabi has abused Interpol’s system of so-called “red notices” for wanted suspects to persecute political dissidents.
Emirati General Ahmed Nasser Al Raisi was elected following three rounds of voting during which he received 68.9 percent of votes cast by member countries, Interpol said in a statement.
After his election, Raisi tweeted he would “build a more transparent, diverse, and decisive organization that works to ensure safety for all.”
However, Raisi did not address the accusations, but said the “UAE has become one of the safest countries in the world.”
Complaints of “torture” were filed against the Emirati general in recent months in France and Turkey, which is hosting Interpol’s general assembly in Istanbul this week.
Raisi, head of the UAE’s security forces, will take on a largely ceremonial and part-time voluntary role for a four-year term.
Interpol Secretary General Juergen Stock handles day-to-day running of the organisation. He was appointed for a second five-year term in 2019.
South Korean Kim Jong-yang has been president since the 2018 arrest of his predecessor Meng Hongwei in China, where he had served as a vice minister of public security.
The only other candidate for the post was the Czech Republic’s Sarka Havrankova, a veteran officer overseeing the country’s international cooperation in police matters.
Another appointment to Interpol’s executive committee on Thursday – Chinese senior public security official, Hu Binchen – similarly sparked anger.
China has come under increasing criticism from rights groups and some governments amid claims that actions towards Uyghurs and other minority groups in the northwestern region of Xinjiang amount to genocide.
Swedish activist and Safeguard Defenders co-founder, Peter Dahlin, said the election was a “disgrace that will increase China’s abuse” in a tweet.
“A fox is now placed in charge of watching the sheep,” Dahlin said.
The rights group World Uyghur Congress described the election as “very disheartening.”