Interpol president in human rights row

By Michael Bartlett, BBC News

The General of the UAE Air Force is implicated in human rights abuses in his home country

The new president of Interpol, General Hisham bin Ibrahim al-Mazrouei, has been accused of overseeing torture and mistreatment of Saudi dissidents. An exiled Saudi exile said he met Mr Mazrouei “on several occasions” to discuss the executions of Saudi dissidents. They were hanged last month. Mr Mazrouei defended himself in a telephone interview with the BBC. The appointment of the general, a close ally of the UAE leader, Mohammed bin Zayed, marks a shift in the way the organisation is run, observers say. Recently, Interpol announced the arrival of Italian Gaetano Picchi as a director-general, seen as the next in line. But the appointment of General Mazrouei sets the organisation back a notch, say critics of Interpol’s drift towards authoritarianism. Independent watchdog But the appointments sparked a fierce row in Italy and brought to the fore questions over the security arrangements which guarantee members of the organisation a permanent seat on the secret list of wanted individuals. These guarantees include getting someone’s name on a “red notice” and warrant, which puts them on a fast-track to international arrest, if found. It includes giving officials an order to execute them, even if they are already dead. A name is put on a “red notice” and warrant, which puts them on a fast-track to international arrest, if found Italian General Paolo Parigi told the BBC that in retrospect it was “bad decision-making” to appoint General Mazrouei at all. “Interpol did not get involved in the repression in Saudi Arabia but the Emirates knew nothing about these incidents when we tried to get in touch with the general,” he said. General Mazrouei dismissed the story. He said that his plans include holding the office of the president “for the better part of this year, because the presidency of Interpol has never been on an administrative level”. He said he would improve relations with security agencies and international organisations. “The general director of Interpol will be directly responsible for the president’s activities, yes, he will be responsible for all three central functions – policing, financial and communications,” he told the BBC. “But he does not have the authority to issue (red) notices, not the general director. It is the general director’s deputy and director that will do that. “It is the executive director who is going to investigate accusations of corruption. He will check allegations of abuse by member countries and he will investigate and verify.” Mr Parigi said the issue was one of work and not titles. “Interpol will be an independent organisation, a voluntary, international organisation, so that there is no role for the intergovernmental (at the UN). The commitment that this organisation is making is going to be towards the fight against human trafficking.” However, the chairman of Human Rights Watch, Josef Benedict, questioned that pledge. He said it was not a matter of working to improve the office’s usefulness but of protecting it and exercising the power that Interpol had to implement its own policies. “No-one doubts that Interpol can be used to enforce the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child but the secretariat has also granted itself the legal authority to place anyone on a ‘red notice’ or ‘red notice warrant’,” he said. “These are not just a fancy add-on.” The General himself has come in for criticism in the past as well. Human rights groups have accused the UAE Air Force of using the military base that the General commands in Jeddah to engage in torture and enforced disappearances. Amnesty International has reported that he is also alleged to have conducted operations against suspected al-Qaeda members in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan with close involvement of paramilitary units. There has been no comment from the General on these allegations. However, last year an exiled Saudi dissident, Sulaiman al-Najjar, named him as head of torture and mistreatment at the Saudi interior ministry in a letter to the UN Human Rights Council. The General told the BBC: “I am not going to go into the background of these documents to prove the authenticity or falsity of the documents. I have not read them.” He said he rejected all such allegations: “They have nothing to do with me. The document is very clear that I did not do any torture. I was in charge of state security for the homeland of Saudi Arabia. If I am accused, I will defend myself.” The General said he welcomed the appointment of General Mazrouei, saying he plans to defend him and Interpol.

Bookmark with: Delicious




StumbleUpon What are these? E-mail this to a friend Printable version

Leave a Comment