Former Bahrain national player, Hakeem Ali Mohamed Al-Araibi, who was granted refugee status in Australia in 2017, has been detained in Bangkok. AlAraibi now plays for Pascoe Vale FC in the NPL Victoria competition.
On arrival at Bangkok Airport last week, Al-Araibi was detained under an Interpol ‘Red Notice’ issued at the request of the Bahrain Government.
However, the issuing of a Red Notice to a person who is a refugee or asylum-seeker is contary to Interpol policy.
In the past, Al-Araibi has been critical of the current president of the Asian Football Confederation, Sheikh Salman, particulary during his candidacy for the FIFA Presidency in 2016.
In January 2014, Al-Araibi was sentenced to 10 years in prison in absentia for allegedly vandalising a police station – a charge he denies, saying he was playing in a televised football match at the time of the alleged crime. Al-Araibi provided evidence that he was playing in a football match that was televised live when the alleged incident occurred. However, when his family reached out to the Bahrain football federation to confirm his alibi, which is ruled by Sheikh Salman, their requests went unanswered.
Human rights activists are concerned that AlAraibi will face imprisonment and torture if the Thai authorities deport him to Bahrain. Human rights groups, including the Bahrian Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) have called on the Australian Government to take action and press on the Thai authorities to release Hakeem and allow him to get back to Australia where he is protected.
“Interpol has violated its obligations, as Hakeem holds refugee status and returning him to Bahrain puts him at significant risk of torture and imprisonment. His deportation would undoubtedly damage the reputation of Interpol’s newly-elected president early into his tenure,” said BIRD Director, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei.
Under international law, it is prohibited to return an individual to a state or territory when there is a reasonable fear that the individual will be subjected to torture. In May 2017, the United Nations Committee Against Torture addressed the issue of “widespread torture” in Bahrain and asserted that a “climate of impunity” exists in the country.
Other activists say that Bahrain iss using Interpol for its own political ends.
“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,” according to Rahda Stirling, founder of Detained in Dubai.
UPDATE 4 December 2018
The Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights (GIDHR) has advised that the Interpol Red Notice has been lifted but Thai authorities continue to detail Al-Araibi as they decide whether to deport him to Bahrain or allow him to return freely to Australia, with a Thai court approving a temporary remand to detain Al-Araibi for 12 more days in Bangkok. He has been detained since 27 November.
President of GIDHR, Yahya Alhadid, said there is no reason to continue to detain 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.”
UPDATE 8 December 2018
Al-Araibi told GIDHR that he has started a hunger strike. This step is a protest against the unfair court decision which was issued on Friday by the Bangkok Criminal Court which issued an arrest warrant against Al-Araibi.
Al-Araibi said in a message sent last night that his future will be over if deported to Bahrain. He asked his supporters to continue the fight to save him.