(CNN) – Global Law Enforcement Agency Interpol. international police The Inspector General of the UAE, Ahmed Nasser Al-Raisi, accused of supervising torture, has been elected as its new chief.
Raisi, who has been part of the UAE police force since 1980 and serves as an inspector general in the country’s Ministry of Interior, received 68.9% of the vote at the INTERPOL General Assembly in Istanbul.
The role is largely ceremonial: he will chair the General Assembly as well as three Executive Committee meetings during each of the four years of his term.
The vote passed despite criminal cases brought by former detainees. Matthew Hedges, who has been held in the UAE for seven months, has filed a compensation claim in the London High Court against Raisi and several high-ranking Emirati officials.
He accused them of assault, torture and unlawful imprisonment. Hedges returned to the UK in November 2018 after being pardoned for life in prison for espionage. The UAE has released a video showing him apparently confessing to being a member of the British intelligence agency MI6.
“The inevitable election of my president to the presidency of Interpol is a serious attack on the values he stands for,” Hedges said in a tweet on Thursday. “Their complicity in torture and systematic abuse is legitimized by Interpol and gives the green light to other authoritarian states so they can act with impunity.”
The UAE has denied allegations that Hedges was subjected to physical or psychological ill-treatment while in detention.
Hedges said this week that he and another former detainee, Ali Isa Ahmed, had filed a criminal case with Turkish prosecutors. Ahmed, 29, said he was arrested in 2019 while on vacation in the United Arab Emirates because he was wearing a shirt with the Qatari flag on it, during the diplomatic spat between the two countries. He said he was electrocuted and beaten, as well as deprived of food, water and sleep.
Ahmed was in the country for the Asian Cup.
The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said in a statement that “any legal complaint that can be filed with charges against Al-Raisi is baseless and will be rejected.”
“He strongly believes that mistreatment of people by police is abhorrent and intolerable,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, Raisi pledged to build a “more transparent, diverse and decisive” Interpol.
“I am delighted to be elected president today, and it is the honor of my professional life to serve the citizens of the world on behalf of the United Arab Emirates,” Raisi said in a statement.
The elections had been postponed for a year due to the pandemic. In October 2020, 19 rights groups criticized a major candidacy for the Interpol presidency, saying his presidency would “undermine Interpol’s mission and reputation and seriously affect the organization’s ability to carry out its mission effectively and in good faith”.