Interpol on Thursday elected a contentious official from the United Arab Emirates as its new president during the international law enforcement body’s annual General Assembly held in Istanbul.
Maj. Gen. Ahmed Naser al-Raisi, inspector general at the United Arab Emirates’ interior ministry, was elected for one four-year term, the global policing body announced on Twitter. He has been accused by human rights groups of involvement in torture and arbitrary detentions in the UAE.
The vote for president was being closely watched since the first-ever Chinese president of the body, Meng Hongwei, vanished midway through his four-year term on a return trip to China in 2018. It subsequently emerged that he had been detained, accused of bribery and other alleged crimes.
The international law enforcement body also said Valdecy Urquiza of Brazil was elected to the post of vice president for the Americas, while Garba Baba Umar of Nigeria was elected vice president for Africa.
Al-Raisi is accused of torture and has criminal complaints against him in five countries, including in France, where Interpol has its headquarters, and in Turkey, where the election is taking place.
Al-Raisi has run a slick campaign for the presidential post, traveling the world to meet lawmakers and government officials and boasting academic degrees from the U.K. and the U.S. and years of experience of policing.
In a opinion piece for the government-run newspaper in Abu Dhabi, al-Raisi said he wants to “modernize and transform” Interpol, drawing on “the UAE’s role as a leader in tech-driven policing and a bridge builder in the international community.”
Al-Raisi replaces Kim Jong Yan from South Korea, a vice president who was swiftly elected as a replacement to serve out the rest of Meng’s term. Kim’s presidency was due to end in 2020, but his tenure has been extended by a year after the coronavirus pandemic prompted Interpol to scrap its annual assembly last year.
Although Interpol’s secretary-general runs Interpol on a day-to-day basis, the president plays a role in supervising the police body’s work and guiding its overall general direction. The president chairs Interpol’s general assemblies and meetings of its Executive Committee.
The post of secretary-general is currently held by Juergen Stock of Germany.
About 470 police chiefs, ministers and other representatives from more than 160 countries attended the three-day meeting. Each country attending has one vote.
On Tuesday, delegates voted to admit the Federated States of Micronesia, raising the number of Interpol members to 195.