PARIS -- The French lawyer for a jailed human rights defender in the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday filed a torture complaint against the new president of Interpol, Maj. Gen. Ahmed Nasser al-Raisi, as the official made his first visit to the international police agency’s headquarters in the French city of Lyon.
William Bourdon, a lawyer for the Emirati human rights defender and blogger Ahmed Mansour, said he filed the complaint against al-Raisi in a Paris court under the principle of universal jurisdiction. Mansour is serving a 10-year sentence in the UAE for charges of “insulting the status and prestige of the UAE” and its leaders in social media posts.
Separately, lawyers for two Britons who had accused al-Raisi of torture filed a criminal complaint Tuesday with investigative judges of the Specialized Judicial Unit for Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes of the Paris Tribunal.
Al-Raisi was elected for a four-year term as Interpol president in November. He has been accused by human rights groups of involvement in torture and arbitrary detentions in the UAE.
The UAE has denied allegations against al-Raisi.
Al-Raisi announced his trip to the Lyon headquarters in a Twitter post on Monday, saying “with the start of the new year, I begin today my first visit to Lyon, France, as the president of Interpol.” Interpol Secretary General Jurgen Stock welcomed al-Raisi “on his first official visit as president” in his own Twitter post.
“Al-Raisi's presence on French territory triggers the universal jurisdiction of French courts and immunity can not be invoked,” said Rodney Dixon, a lawyer for the two Britons, Matthew Hedges and Ali Issa Ahmad.
Hedges, a doctoral student, was imprisoned in the UAE for nearly seven months in 2018 on spying charges and said he had been subjected to torture and months of solitary confinement. Ahmad, a soccer fan, says he was tortured by the UAE security agency during the 2019 Asia Cup soccer tournament.
They filed a torture complaint against al-Raisi with the prosecutors of the Paris Tribunal in October. That complaint is pending, Dixon said. The criminal complaint that was filed Tuesday directly with the judges of the Tribunal — with al-Raisi on French territory — means that the French judges “should immediately open an investigation into claims against him,” Dixon said.
"According to French law, an open investigation could lead to al-Raisi's detention for questioning while he is on French territory, either now or whenever he returns," Dixon said.
It was not clear how long al-Raisi will remain in Lyon. Interpol officials did not respond to phone calls or emails by The Associated Press asking about his whereabouts Tuesday.
In his Twitter post, al-Raisi said he will work with members of Interpol's Executive Committee and the secretary general “as an integrated team towards greater global safety and security” while at the agency’s headquarters in France.