Ahmed Nasser Al-Raisi, from the United Arab Emirate Ministry of Interior was voted as head of Interpol in November 2021, but has now been accused of complicity in the torture of two British men, and French authorities have opened an investigation into the allegations.
Investigative judges at the Paris Tribunal began the probe after two British citizens, Matthew Hedges and Ali Issa Ahmad, accused the Interpol chief of having ultimate responsibility for their torture and arbitrary detention they say they endured in the UAE.
Their period of detention was when al-Raisi was general inspector in the UAE's Interior Ministry, a post he still holds alongside Interpol. Last week evidence against al-Raisi was presented to the tribunal's judicial unit for crimes against humanity and war crimes, according to the Britons' lawyers.
Hedges, an academic specializing in the UAE, said he was tortured after being arrested during a study trip and detained for 6 months on charges of espionage.
Ahmad said he was detained and tortured by UAE security agents during the 2019 Asian Cup soccer tournament he had attended in the UAE. The UAE has denied the allegations against al-Raisi.
In October, the two British citizens filed the claim with Paris Tribunal prosecutors under France's principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows the country to prosecute serious crimes even if they are committed on foreign soil.
This means al-Raisi could potentially be detained for questioning if he visits France. Interpol is based in the French city of Lyon.
In January, when al-Raisi was visiting Lyon, the men filed a criminal complaint directly with the tribunal's judges to open an investigation.
Al-Raisi is believed to have visited Lyon several times since January after being elected Interpol president in November 2021.
His appointment was contentious, as he has previously been accused of involvement in torture and arbitrary detentions by human rights groups.
The Paris Tribunal is France's largest court by caseload, and its jurisdiction covers crimes against humanity and crimes committed outside of France. However investigators must also decide whether the Interpol chief enjoys diplomatic immunity from prosecution in France.