The election of UAE official, Inspector General Ahmed Nasser Al-Raisi, to the position of President of Interpol signifies Abu Dhabi’s international rise to power and serves as a reminder that violating the crimes the agency claims to police, does not exempt you from running it.
“To again choose a top official of an abusive state institution as its president, Interpol risks jeopardizing its credibility as a rights-respecting international law enforcement agency,” says Joe Stork, the deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), in response to the election of the UAE’s Ahmed Al-Raisi to position of Presidency. HRW and fellow Human Rights NGO the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), have both strongly condemned the Interpol election, after having filed a joint letter of concern to its Secretary General, Jurgen Stock, over news of Raisi’s candidacy back in October.
Needless to say, the letter of concern fell on the deaf ears of Interpol’s Secretary General, who responded to reporters’ concerns, this Thursday, by stating that she would not get involved in politics. A strange response to a question based upon the fact that Interpol has elected a man accused of refusing to investigate egregious human rights abuse allegations in the UAE as Abu Dhabi’s Interior Ministry’s inspector General. One cannot separate politics from this decision either, as Raisi reports directly to the UAE’s Deputy Prime Minister Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Interior Minister Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who are tied to Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince. The UAE is a dictatorship, hence electing one of its officials to such a position means that the Emirati government’s perspective will be directly represented. The Emirates also have a long history of accusations over its alleged abuse of Interpol’s “Red Notice” system, for the purpose of cracking down on political dissidents.
According to a report published earlier this April, entitled Undue Influence: The UAE and INTERPOL by Sir David Calvet-Smith, the UAE has been seeking “to improperly influence Interpol through funding and other mechanisms and … is seeking to cement its influence by seeking to have Major General Al-Raisi elected as President.” The report documented Abu Dhabi’s financial contributions to Interpol since 2017 and found that the UAE pledged €50m to the INTERPOL Foundation for a Safer World — in 2017 alone — a Foundation with a former total budget of only €232,064. This has led to the speculation that the world renowned Interpol has been bought and paid for by a lawless family of oil princes.
Interpol is an international organisation which claims to seek to combat the likes of cyber crimes, crimes against humanity, and political corruption, but has elected an official of a State which is a serial offender when it comes to all arenas of criminal activity.
The UAE infamously spent big on purchasing Israeli NSO spy technology and used it in order to crack down on political dissidents, including well-known Emirati government critic Ahmed Mansour, who Human Rights Watch says has faced physical and psychological abuse since his arrest in 2011. Back in September, the U.S. Department of Justice resolved a dispute with three former U.S. Intelligence Community and military personnel who had agreed to pay $1.68 million to resolve criminal charges that emerged from their admitted work as hackers for hire, on behalf of the UAE.
According to a 2019 Reuters Expose, the UAE had set up a clandestine group of mercenary hackers, with US intel backgrounds, who were used for illegal spying operations. The report states that the “story of Project Raven reveals how former U.S. government hackers have employed state-of-the-art cyber-espionage tools on behalf of a foreign intelligence service that spies on human rights activists, journalists and political rivals.”
The UAE has also been involved in alleged war crimes that its own military, as well as its proxy forces, have committed in Yemen as part of their joint war-effort with the Saudi-led coalition. Yemen is the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet and the UAE has been accused of not only helping create the current crisis but committing war crimes. It’s role in this crisis, as well as its procurement of rebel fighters from Sudan to perform its dirty work in both Yemen and Libya, working alongside terrorist organisations in the process, should be enough to seriously call Abu Dhabi into question. Sudan’s recent military coup was led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who the UAE also have one of the closest relationships with and are believed to be the puppet master of.
Perhaps the most important point to note here is that this election gives the Emirati authorities the impression that they can simply buy their way to global acceptance and that their oil money can overshadow their human rights abuses. To say the least, Ahmed Nasser Al-Raisi’s election sends a clear message that Interpol can be bought, and going forward, that its very mandate should now be in question.