On 25 November, 2021, INTERPOL concluded its 89th General Assembly (‘GA’), 20th-25th of November 2021, an annual event in which Member State representatives discuss working methods, programme activities and general cooperation, in addition to voting on major decisions affecting general policy and resource management. This GA falls at the end of the four-year INTERPOL presidential cycle and saw controversial United Arab Emirates (‘UAE’) nominee Ahmed Naser Al-Raisi, an Emirati military General, and the general inspector of the United Arab Emirates (‘UAE’) Interior Ministry, elected as president.
Concerns were raised about Al-Raisi’s nomination prior to the GA (P&P covered here), and in October 2020, Human Rights Watch joined other human rights organisations in delivering an open letter to INTERPOL expressing concern over his potential election, on account of the UAE’s reported human rights record and reported influence over INTERPOL, through financial contributions, donating $54m (£40.5m) in 2017 (P&P reported here). However, despite these concerns, Al-Raisi received 68.9 per cent of votes cast by Member States, meeting the two thirds threshold mandated by INTERPOL’s constitution, Article 16, to take up the presidential post.
Attention has been drawn to the position of INTERPOL’s president before. In 2018, now outgoing President Kim Jong-yang was selected over Alexander Prokopchuk, who, in his role as Russia’s NCB chief, was accused of abusing INTERPOL’s Red Notice system to target critics of the Russian State. Jong-yang’s election itself came amidst the sudden resignation from post and subsequent disappearance of Meng Hongwei, INTERPOL president 2016-2018. Mr. Hongwei, who is currently serving a 13-year sentence in China on charges of bribery was to have served as president until 2020 but disappeared in September 2018 during a visit to China from France, where INTERPOL is based.
In addition to the election of Al-Raisi, in recent weeks, INTERPOL and the 89th GA session attracted negative attention on account of Syria’s reinstatement to INTERPOL’s network, and the apparent intentions of this year’s GA host, Turkey, which has been accused of using the session as an opportunity to pursue political dissidents.
President Recep Yayyip Erdogan is reported to have told the opening session of the GA that he expected ‘strong cooperation’ in the extradition of members of the Fethullahist Terror Organisation or ‘FETO’ (otherwise known as the ‘Gülen Movement’, a group considered by Turkey to have orchestrated the 2016 coup d’état), and the PKK, a Kurdish political liberation movement. Both groups have been involved in armed clashes with Turkish security forces since the 1980’s.
In addition to electing Al-Raisi as next president of INTERPOL, the organisation also set out steps to address child exploitation and increase its budget.
Member States adopted resolution AG-2021-89-RES-09, proposed by the Republic of Korea, and INTERPOL’s Crimes against Children unit, which called on Member States to urge end-to-end encryption, and to take responsibility for designing products and services that are unsafe for children. In addition, the resolution called for national legislation and policy-enabling law enforcement to prevent and respond to online sexual abuse. The resolution is the 8th directed at strengthening INTERPOL’s response to the exploitation of children.
INTERPOL also approved an increase in statutory contributions, which is considered to be the first real contribution to its budget since 2009, represents an overall €22 million increase, and is to be ‘phased-in’ over a three-year period, beginning with €5 million in 2022, €7 million in 2023 and €10 million 2024.
The budget changes are likely to be overseen by incoming President Al-Raisi, due to take up his role in March 2022, and by Secretary General Jurgen Stock.