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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Interpol chief meets Qatar’s prime minister in Doha


A controversial UAE general accused of torture was recently appointed as the new president of the International Criminal Police Organization [Interpol].

Qatar’s Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa Al-Thani met with the Interpol’s Secretary-General Jurgen Stock in Doha on Sunday.

According to the Qatar News Agency [QNA], Sheikh Khalid and Stock discussed topics of common interest.

The Interpol official also met with the Director of Public Security Staff Major General Saad bin Jassim Al Khulaifi in a meeting that saw the two touch on Qatar’s cooperation with the global police organisation.

Qatar and Interpol share a number of agreements to enhance security in various fields.

Among such agreements was one signed in 2014 between Qatar Airways and the police agency to use Interpol’s I-Checkit system to screen passenger passports through the  global organisation’s Stolen and Lost Travel Documents [SLTD] database.

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The Qatari flag carrier became the first full-service airline to use the screening system following the signing of the agreement.

Then in 2018, the Security Committee of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy [SC] signed a training cooperation agreement with Interpol along with the University of Southern Mississippi.

Under the deal, the parties agreed to provide security training for major events, including the upcoming FIFA World Cup next year.

Controversies over Interpol president

The visit comes as Interpol faces public criticism by rights groups and activists following the election of Emirati Inspector General Ahmed Nasser Al-Raisi as the police agency’s president in November.

Al-Raisi is notoriously known for torturing detainees in the UAE and his election has placed the global policy agency’s credibility into question, rights groups say.

While the presidency is a part-time role and Al-Raisi will not be overseeing day-to-day operations, the president chairs Interpol’s assembly meetings.

Rights groups and journalists expressed their disappointment in the decision, which was made despite alarming accusations raised against the Emirati official the moment his candidacy was announced earlier this year.

“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,” tweeted Hiba Zayadin, Gulf Researcher for Human Rights Watch [HRW], on 25 November.

In late October, HRW, along with 18 other rights group and 35 French members of parliament who called on President Emmanuel Macron to oppose Al-Raisi’s candidacy, expressed their concerns on the matter.

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Three German politicians also previously expressed their fears in a joint statement, calling Al-Raisi’s appointment as a “blatant contradiction to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the organization’s mission”.

Reports listed several victims of torture under Al-Raisi, including 34-year-old academic Matthew Hedges, who was held in solitary confinement for seven months in 2018 for alleged espionage. He says he was in the UAE for research purposes.

“Al Raisi is a leading figure in a security apparatus that tolerates no criticism or dissent and systematically violates human rights,” read a statement published on Democracy for the Arab World Now [DAWN] by a number of rights groups on 26 October.

Other victims included 29-year-old Ali Issa Ahmad, who was detained while wearing a Qatari sports jersey while in the UAE during the 2019 Asian Cup.

The incident happened amid the GCC crisis, when Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed all diplomatic ties with Doha and imposed an illegal air, land and sea blockade.

Ahmad said he was electrocuted, beaten and deprived of food, water and sleep.

While Al-Raisi’s role at the global body does not have as much influence as Interpol’s secretary-general, the UAE still appears to have the ability to exert power.

According to HRW, this is due to years of UAE funding for the police agency as well as its abuse of red notices to persecute political dissidents.

A report by former British director of public prosecutions Sir David Calvert-Smith in March revealed that the UAE had hijacked the system of red notices to pressure opponents.

In 2017, reports said the UAE pledged $56 million to Interpol – an amount that is the equivalent of third of its annual budget.

Questions over what it would mean for those opposing the UAE’s regime – including journalists – were also raised following the election of Al-Raisi, as well as possible decisions that would be made during his four-year tenure.

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