Radha Stirling, Founder and CEO of Detained in Dubai, has called upon members of the Australia-Thailand Chamber of Commerce (AustCham-Thailand) to stand in support of refugee footballer Hakeem Alaraib who is currently detained in Bangkok and threatened with extradition to his native Bahrain, where his life may be in danger. Stirling warns that Thailand’s decision in Hakeem’s case will have broad implications for all foreigners in the country.
“When someone whom Australia has granted asylum cannot expect to have that protection respected by Thailand; what protection is there for any Australian citizen, or indeed any foreign national in Thailand?” Stirling asks, “If Hakeem were in any developed country, extradition to Bahrain would be out of the question, and it should be out of the question in Thailand. The fact that Thai authorities are even considering sending Hakeem back to the country from which he fled for his life is outrageous.”
Stirling argues that Gulf nations like Bahrain, the UAE, and Qatar routinely abuse Interpol and international extradition procedures to persecute individuals for civil and political disputes; and that Hakeem’s fate will have wide repercussions for expats in Thailand. “The illegitimacy of Bahrain’s extradition request for Hakeem is glaring and his right to return to Australia is indisputable,” she says, “If Hakeem is surrendered to Bahrain, what will that mean for every foreign national visiting Thailand who may be unfairly sought on the basis of a spurious Red Notice or direct extradition request by governments guilty of habitual Interpol abuse and documented human rights violations? This is an issue that impacts the entire expat community in Thailand and every foreigner who does business there.”
In her letter to individual members of AustCham-Thailand, Stirling says, “International travellers; businesspeople, tourists, and investors, should feel safe in countries with whom their governments have friendly relations. They have to be safe within those countries, and they should be safe from being handed over to countries that would harm them. If they are not safe, then how friendly are those relations, really?...We are calling upon you, as a business leader representing Australia in Thailand, to voice your support for Hakeem to the Thai government and call for his immediate release.”
Stirling argues that Thailand is at a crossroads with the Hakeem Alaraibi case, “We are seeing the emergence of a loose, multi-jurisdictional alliance between countries with autocratic regimes and dismissive attitudes towards human rights collaborating in the circumvention of due process through the misuse of Interpol and international extraditions. Thailand has to choose whether to be a part of that disreputable alliance, or to align with accepted global standards,” Stirling explains, “Since 2016, Thailand has been in a self-described ‘transition period’, ostensibly moving towards democracy. With this case, the Thai government is not only deciding the fate of Hakeem, but the direction of the country. Is Thailand going to come down on the side of human rights, development, democracy and the rule of law; or on the side of authoritarianism, estrangement from the West, and isolation?”
Stirling’s letters to AustCham members happened to coincide with Australia Day, Australia’s official National Day. Stirling says, “As an Australian citizen myself, I feel that supporting Hakeem is an entirely appropriate expression of what Australia stands for, and I am certain that the members of AustCham will feel the same way.”
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.
As an organisation we are primarily concerned with the extent to which foreign visitors and residents in these countries may be victimised by repressive laws and discriminatory practices. Our advocacy for reforms are part of our effort to ensure that expats, tourists, investors and businesspeople in the Gulf are safe; and that these countries comply with their international legal obligations to protect human rights, provide due process, conduct fair trials, and respect the treaties and charters to which they are signatories. As long as oppressive, discriminatory laws remain, including those against women, the environment in Gulf countries is highly risky for foreigners. We play a role in helping to bring GCC nations in line with international standards of justice, and highlighting those areas which need development.
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