- Radha Stirling,CEO of Detained in Dubai
Radha Stirling has issued the following statement:
The recent statement by a spokesman for the government of Bahrain regarding the case of Hakeem Alaraibi, intended to assure the international community, only heightens our concern for his safety if Thailand chooses to extradite him.
Bahrain is notorious for inventing criminal charges against dissidents and human rights activists in the country; prosecuting them for fabricated crimes unrelated to free speech or political expression in a transparent attempt to disguise their overt repression of dissidence. Renowned activist Zainab Al-Khawaja, for instance, faced no less than twelve criminal cases manufactured by the Public Prosecutor to silence her opposition on social media. Some of these cases are still ongoing, and Al-Khawaja’s prison sentence keeps getting longer year after year. So when the government claims that the charges against Alaraib “do not in any way relate to political views or the right to expression”; it is just following the familiar pattern.
More disturbing, however, is the government’s claim that the vandalism charge is “terrorism-related”, because this can only be interpreted as a prelude to the invention of new, more serious charges that will be filed against Hakeem following his extradition. Bahrain has a deliberately vague legal definition of terrorism which it has frequently used to impose unimaginably harsh sentences against political dissidents and human rights activists. If Hakeem is extradited the ten year sentence he was given in absentia will undoubtedly be inflated by additional cases to the point where his incarceration will be indefinite.
In 2011 a Thai court agreed to extradite British businessman Michael Smith to the UAE to serve a two year sentence; however once Smith was in their custody, the UAE laid additional charges against him, eventually sentencing him to 12 years. Even after receiving a governmental pardon in 2014, Smith was not released.
There is no question that Hakeem’s rights, and very possibly his life, will be in danger if he is extradited. The government says that “he has only been sentenced to imprisonment”, but we know that means a sentence of abuse, torture, and potentially extrajudicial killing by police whose brutality Bahrain has shown no interest in preventing.
Thailand must respect the refugee status granted to Hakeem by Australia’s stringent asylum process, which determined that deportation to Bahrain would put his life at risk. That risk is even greater now. Hakeem already endured torture and abuse at the hands of Bahraini police over his alleged participation in pro-democracy rallies; if he were returned to their custody today, he would likely be punished for having exposed to the world the abuse he suffered previously.
Thai authorities refused to return Rahaf Mohammed to Saudi Arabia, saying that they would not “send someone to their death”; for this same reason they must refuse to extradite Hakeem to Bahrain, and demonstrate to the world that Thailand will not collaborate with authoritarian regimes in the persecution of refugees.
UAE Criminal and Civil Justice Specialists. Contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
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.