Australia & FIFA must pressure Interpol, Thailand & Bahrain to secure pro footballer’s freedom

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Hakeem AlAraibi faces extradition to Bahrain where he sought refuge from in Australia following alleged torture – picture courtesy of pulse.com.gh

Detention of Bahraini/Australian resident and pro footballer in Thailand highlights Gulf state Interpol abuse and international cooperation issues.  Australia needs to pressure Interpol to withdraw the politically motivated red notice, Thailand to decline extradition and Bahrain to withdraw their extradition request.  FIFA has also been a strong financial supporter of Interpol and should use their own channels to pressure for the removal of the red notice against their fellow sportsman.

Radha Stirling, an expert witness in extradition proceedings to the Middle East, Interpol Abuse, Human Rights expert and Detained in Dubai’s CEO, released the following statement on the detention and potential extradition of pro footballer Hakeem Ali Mohamed Ali AlAraib:

“If it were not for Interpol’s irresponsible acceptance of Red Notices from Gulf States, Hakeem AlAraib would not be in the position he is now, fighting extradition from Thailand to Bahrain. Interpol makes no attempt to review Red Notices for their merit and accepts submissions from nations who have been consistently proven to abuse the system; including reports for political reasons, dissidents/journalists and even credit card debt. Interpol generally makes no attempt to contact the reported party to request their input but rather, waits for them to be captured at a border crossing.

Had Hakeem been arrested in Australia upon his departure, I am confident that he would not have been extradited to Bahrain and that we would have simply applied for the cancellation of his Red Notice. It would be advised that he didn’t travel during this period and it may have a career impact, but he would certainly be safe. It is not automatic though, that all countries will process Interpol’s data and thus, it is not guaranteed that Hakeem’s passport would be alerted upon exit so traveling through border control in one country does not guarantee safety in another. The only way to check whether one is listed on Interpol is to apply directly to their headquarters in Lyon, France.

Hakeem AlAraib was no fugitive. He was a prominent figure and professional footballer in Australia. It would have been no trouble for Interpol to locate Hakeem and request Australian police to notify him of the Red Notice, where it could have been resolved easily. The lack of process here has caused Hakeem to be arrested in a country where his extradition is extremely likely, a country who will not consider the potential for him to suffer human rights violations and torture. Australia installed human rights provisions in its treaty, for instance, with the UAE but it is unlikely Thailand will have afforded the same protection to prisoners.

Bahrain stands to be able to extradite someone who has previously complained that he had been tortured. Now that he has spoken out publicly about his torture, even worse should be expected. In my years of dealing with prisoners detained in the Middle East, especially those who would be considered dissidents, I can confidently say that Hakeem is at serious risk of being the next Jamal Khashoggi. What is sure is that if he is extradited, he will face grave human rights violations and potentially torture and death. Bahrain has been criticised for human rights violations, lengthy and unfair detentions, unfair trials and torture.

It is important to note that Interpol is responsible for this arrest. Interpol failed to notify Australian authorities of Bahrain’s request and have not considered the human damage caused by a process that fails to consider human rights. Interpol allows countries like Bahrain to list notices in a country of their choice, for example Thailand where extradition may seem more likely than a country like Australia, essentially promoting “jurisdiction shopping”. Interpol needs to review and terminate the Red Notice immediately, a notice that has clearly been created for political reasons, and Thailand needs to act on the basis that Interpol has rejected the notice and Hashem should never have been arrested.

Australian authorities should consider withdrawing their membership from Interpol’s database or at least suspending their funding of this negligent data sharing agency. Australian ambassadors will need to work with both Bahrain and Thailand to ensure the safety of Hakeem. Having already granted Hakeem asylum in Australia, the authorities have a duty of care towards him, and I have every confidence that with continued public support and pressure, Hakeem will be free soon.

However, his arrest highlights ongoing systematic flaws in the Interpol & Extradition processes that need serious intervention.”

Previous statement:

Hakeem Ali Mohamed Ali AlAraib was granted political asylum in Australia last year following a thorough investigation into his claims of political persecution in his home country of Bahrain; yet today Mr AlAraib is being detained in Thailand because Bahrain is seeking his extradition. This politically motivated request should have been immediately refused by Interpol; Mr Alaraib has already suffered torture at the hands of Bahraini authorities in 2012, and there is no question that he would face similar, or worse treatment if Thailand cedes to the extradition request.

We urge the Australian government to urgently intervene on Mr AlAraib’s behalf and secure his release.This case serves to highlight what has become habitual abuse of the Interpol system by Gulf countries; and more broadly, it reveals severe systemic flaws in the way Interpol operates. Both Qatar and the UAE have repeatedly misused the international policing organisation as an instrument for debt collection, though private financial disputes fall well beyond Interpol’s mandate. Red Notices are issued upon request, apparently without the slightest examination into the validity of the rationales for those requests.

Red Notices can be challenged, and their removal can be sought through official channels; but this can be an expensive and lengthy process, during which individuals are forced to cope with the often devastating ramifications of an Interpol listing. They may find themselves wrongfully detained and subjected to extradition proceedings, as in the case of Mr AlAraib.The lack of due diligence and transparency in the Interpol system is extremely problematic.

One cannot help but question the correlation between the UAE’s persistent and unchecked abuse of Interpol and the fact that the UAE contributed around $54 million to Interpol in 2017; more than every other contributor combined. When the organisation’s highest donor is also the most prolific abuser of the system, without a transparent evaluation of Interpol’s processes, it can only appear to outside observers that Interpol provides unquestioning service to the highest bidder.We have dealt with innumerable cases of individuals wrongly reported to Interpol by the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and now Bahrain.

We are currently representing two British clients; one facing extradition to the UAE over a single bounced cheque of an insignificant amount; the other being sought by Qatar over a similar issue. While it may seem that bounced cheque or debt cases are less egregious examples of the Gulf states’ misuse of Interpol than the situation of Mr AlAraib, it should be remembered that at this moment Australian Joseph Sarlak and Briton Jonathan Nash are serving life sentences in a Doha prison for returned cheques. The same fate could easily await anyone else handed over to the custody of Qatar, the UAE, or other Gulf nations through extradition.Thailand should release Mr AlAraib immediately and dismiss the extradition request, and of course, Interpol should remove the Red Notice against him. It is inconceivable that any government could consider extraditing someone to a country where he has already been tortured, and from which he has There is simply no question as to what Mr AlAraib will face if he is extradited to Bahrain, and Australian officials need to ensure that the asylum they granted him is respected, and push Thai authorities to send him home to Australia.#SaveNakeem #FreeSarlak #FreeNash

UAE Criminal and Civil Justice Specialists.  Contact us on press@detainedindubai.org

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