We congratulate Hakeem Alaraibi upon his release from Thai custody, and the rejection of Bahrain’s request for extradition; and we salute Thailand for making the reasonable and humane decision to protect a political refugee from being returned to the persecution he fled years ago. There was never any doubt that Hakeem’s life would be in danger had he been sent back to Bahrain, and Interpol should have never allowed that country to request a Red Notice against him.
The trauma Hakeem has suffered, the weeks of uncertainty about his fate, the prolonged and needless detention; to say nothing of the frantic activism from concerned supporters all around the world; all highlight the urgent need for reforms both within Interpol, and in global standards regarding the extradition process.
Hakeem’s detention spotlights what is now referred to as “Interpol Abuse”, an ever-increasing manipulation of the international policing organisation. We have been an outspoken advocate for Interpol reform and for extradition process to be improved so as to avoid victims of Interpol Abuse being detained for lengthy periods. Western courts have consistently refused to extradite those who, like Hakeem, would face unfair trials, discrimination, human rights abuses or torture; the courts have also taken steps to expedite hearings from countries who are known abusers to ensure that individuals are not subjected to lengthy, costly and punishing court proceedings.
The way in which a country responds to an Interpol notice varies on an individual basis and is cause for concern. Some countries will question individuals on arrival but choose not to enforce the Interpol notice, some will deny entry to that person and deport them, others will detain them pending an investigation into whether extradition proceedings will go ahead.
But in Hakeem’s case, no Interpol notice should ever have been issued. It is clear that Interpol’s lack of safeguards has led to Hakeem’s arrest and detention in Thailand. Detained in Dubai’s CEO, expert witness in Interpol abuse and extradition, Radha Stirling, with the support of several barristers and human rights organisations, wrote to Interpol suggesting reforms and changes that need to be made. Stirling said “It is against Interpol’s rules to publish a Red Notice against a refugee from the requesting country but they had no safeguards or data sharing mechanisms in place to ensure the report was not made in the first place; given that this is an extremely common issue, it is beyond an oversight that no official process was in place to prevent such abuse in the first place.
Interpol is a disorganised organisation with a concerning amount of power and no transparency. It is essentially a data sharing body whose data can cause people to be unfairly detained or extradited to places that could torture or kill them. With such power has apparently come no responsibility. As an international organisation, Interpol have placed themselves almost in a position of having sovereign immunity, with no watchdog, no ombudsman and no legal liability.
The organisation accepts hundreds of millions in “donations” from countries who are notorious for Interpol Abuse. It is no surprise that the biggest donors are also the biggest abusers of the database. Hakeem is a victim of Interpol Abuse with a very black and white case against Interpol and I encourage him to seek restitution and help stop this outrageous and ongoing abuse."
Radha Stirling, is founder and CEO of UK / USA based legal and human rights organisation Detained in Dubai, Expert Witness and respected analyst of Middle East Policy.
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