On 18 January 2021, Ahmed Mansour, an Emirati human rights defender and blogger filed a complaint in a Paris court, France, accusing Ahmed Nasser Al-Raisi, the newly elected INTERPOL president and Emirati military General, of torture. Concerns were raised prior to Al-Raisi’s presidential nomination in 2021 (Peters and Peters covered here), in part due to the UAE’s reported human rights record.
Willian Bourdon, a French lawyer representing Mr. Mansour, who is currently serving a 10-year sentence in the UAE, on charges of ‘insulting the status and prestige of the UAE and its leaders’ in social media posts, filed the complaint on Mr. Mansour’s behalf during Al-Raisi’s first visit to INTERPOL’s headquarters in Lyon, on January 17th 2021.
Mr. Bourdon is reported to have filed the case under the principle of universal jurisdiction, an international legal principle, which provides for a state’s jurisdiction over crimes under international law, even where the crimes did not occur within the territory of the state itself, and neither the victim nor the accused perpetrator are nationals of the state. Under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment 1984, which was signed and ratified by France in 1986, states are required to adopt legislation criminalising torture, and providing for the exercise of universal jurisdiction to prosecute perpetrators of torture. Section 689 of the French Code of Criminal procedure (‘CCP’) provides for the criminilisation and exercise of jurisdiction in the context of torture, and in 2002, French courts recognised the principle of universal jurisdiction in the case of Ely Ould Dah 2005.
In addition to the complaint submitted on behalf of Mr. Mansour in a French national court, Al-Raisi has also been accused of torturing a British doctoral student, Matthew Hedges, imprisoned in 2018 on spying charges, and a football fan, during the 2019 Asia Cup soccer tournament. British lawyers representing the two submitted their complaint to the Specialized Judicial Unit for Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes of the Paris Tribunal, which in 2010, and under article 689-11 of the CCP provided jurisdiction to France to try crimes within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, and under the Rome Statute, i.e. genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes of aggression.
It is anticipated that French courts will now open an investigation into Al-Raisi’s conduct, which could, in theory, lead to Al-Raisi being questioned whilst in France, and possible detention. If convicted, Al-Raisi would face a prison term of fifteen years imprisonment, per article 222-1 of the CCP.