Open letter to the representatives of the member countries of the Interpol General Assembly

The Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), the French League for Human Rights and the International Federation for Human Rights are concerned about the candidacy of Major General Ahmed Nasser Al-Raisi for the Presidency of Interpol and call on you to reject him at the next General Assembly on the 23rd and 24th November in Lyon.

Ahmed Al-Raisi has been Inspector General of the UAE’s Interior Ministry since 2015 and is also in charge of the UAE police force. Under his leadership, forces have carried out repeated and systematic arbitrary detentions and tortured prisoners of conscience and human rights defenders with complete impunity.

One of the most emblematic cases concerns human rights defender Ahmed Mansour. Winner of the 2015 Martin Ennals Award and member of the GCHR steering committee, Ahmed Mansour has been imprisoned since March 2017 and sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment in 2018 for, according to the authorities, criticising the Emirati government and tarnishing his country’s image on social networks. Since 2017, he has been held in solitary confinement in Al-Sadr prison, in a 4m2 cell, without access to medical, hygiene, water or sanitary facilities. The inhumane conditions of Ahmed Mansour’s imprisonment have been the subject of several appeals by the undersigned without any favourable response from the Emirati authorities.

According to reports of several NGOs, torture is used systematically in detention centres in order to obtain confessions of guilt or testimonies against other detainees, particularly in the prisons of Al-Razeen, Al-Wathba and Al-Sadr. In addition, some prisons, such as Al-Awair prison and the Al-Barsha police detention centre, are overcrowded and unsanitary, making it extremely difficult to comply with social distancing and recommended hygiene practices in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods used by police officers include sleep deprivation, refusal of medical treatment, verbal threats, sexual assault, pulling out fingernails, torture, severe beatings particularly on the face, head and eyes, electric shocks, hanging , pulling out hair, pouring cold water on detainee’s body in front of a fan, placing the detainee in a coffin for many hours or in isolation in extremely small and windowless cells, the threat of using the electric chair, sleep deprivation, interrogation at late hours, deprivation of access to the outside and sunlight for several months, forcing detainees to stand on a platform or on one leg during interrogations, leaving detainees out in the sun for long periods of time, stripping detainees naked, prohibiting detainees from practising religious rites such as fasting or Friday prayers.

Prison authorities also use solitary confinement as a punitive measure, placing prisoners in narrow, hot, unventilated cells. The excessive use of solitary confinement is considered a form of "white torture", i.e. an abuse aimed at weakening prisoners by making them psychologically unstable, which can lead to depression, insomnia, confusion, hallucinations and psychosis. Other forms of ill-treatment by prison staff include chaining prisoners’ hands and legs from behind to inflict pain and forcing them to sit in the prison yard in the sun. Guards have also deliberately installed loudspeakers in prisons, forcing prisoners to listen to loud music at all hours of the day and night. Prisoners may also be forced to eat expired food or drink salty water.

In addition, prisoners are regularly denied medication and medical treatment for pre-existing health problems or illnesses developed during detention. Several UN experts have condemned these practices and expressed their concerns to the UAE authorities in recent years, but the authorities have not changed their practices.

Such inhumane treatment is recurrent in the UAE and is in flagrant contravention of international law and the Nelson Mandela Rules on the Treatment of Prisoners. While Major General Al-Raisi is, by virtue of his office, responsible for investigating complaints of abuse by the police and security forces in his country, none have been conclusively investigated. In the absence of any enforceable accountability mechanisms in the UAE, the GCHR has filed a complaint in France, against General Major Al-Raisi for acts of torture.

Regardless of the UAE’s financial support for Interpol’s operations, the election of this candidate would seriously undermine the fundamental and constitutive values on which Interpol was founded, including respect for international human rights standards, as set out in the organisation’s constitution.

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