Detention of Bahraini refugee in Thailand highlights Gulf state Interpol abuse

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“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.”

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

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