Australian refugee footballer remains in Thai detention despite lifting of Interpol red notice
4 December 2018 – Interpol red notice against the Australian resident footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi was lifted. However, Thai authorities continue to detain him until they decide whether to deport him to Bahrain or allow his return to Australia.
Yesterday, a Thai court approved a temporary remand to detain Al-Araibi for 12 more days in Bangkok. He has been detained since 27 November 2018, upon his arrival to Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport.
Al-Araibi is facing deportation to Bahrain, although returning registered refugees to territories where they would face a real risk of persecution, torture, or other ill-treatment violates Thailand’s obligations under international law.
Commenting, Yahya Alhadid, the President of Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights (GIDHR), said: “there is no explanation for continuing to detain Hakeem Al-Araibi. Thai authorities said he was arrested on the basis of Interpol’s red notice, and that notice was lifted. He should be allowed to board the first flight to Australia. We call on the Thai government to do the right thing to protect its reputation in front of the international community.”
“We are working along with a number of human rights organisations and activists, including Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network and Refugee Council, from the very first day of Hakeem’s arrest trying to put the maximum pressure on the Thai government to resolve this case,” he added.
On 27 November 2018, AlAraibi and his wife travelled from Melbourne for a holiday. Upon their arrival at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK), he was detained under a “Red Notice”, issued upon Bahrain’s request due to his criminal conviction in 2014.
On 30 November 2018, Alaraibi was told by the Thai immigration authorities that he would be able to fly back to Melbourne on 1 December 2018. A few hours before his scheduled departure, however, AlAraibi was taken to Suan Phlu (Bangkok) Immigration Detention Center where he still remains at risk of extradition.
On 1 December 2018, the Bahraini Embassy in Thailand issued statements on Twitter stating that they are “following up with the relevant security authorities” and that “the suspect is wanted for security cases”.
In November 2012, AlAraibi was arrested and tortured by the Bahraini authorities, allegedly due to the political activities of his brother. He has since spoken publicly about his torture. “They blindfolded me,” he said. “They held me really tight, and one started to beat my legs really hard, saying: ‘You will not play soccer again. We will destroy your future.’ ”
In January 2014, Bahraini authorities sentenced AlAraibi to 10 years imprisonment in absentia on the charge of vandalising a police station, which he strongly deny.
Based on the aforementioned information, if Al-Araibi is returned to Bahrain, his safety is highly likely to be jeopardised.
It is noteworthy that the issuance of the Red Notice violates the formal policy of the Interpol Executive, which states that the processing of red notices “will not be allowed if… the status of refugee or asylum-seeker has been confirmed”.