Radha Stirling on the Pressing Case for Interpol Reform
Updated: Nov 13, 2021
Published December 27th, 2018 Al Bawaba Hayder al-Shakarchi
Update: On 11th February the New York Times and others reported that a Thai court had dropped the extradition case against Hakeem. The player is now free to return to Australia.
Exactly one month ago, Hakeem Al-Araibi, a professional football player in Australia, was wrongfully detained in Thailand at the hands of Bahrain through an Interpol Red Notice. Once Bahrain had the Notice issued, Araibi was immediately arrested upon arrival at Thailand in Bangkok Airport while on vacation with his wife for their honeymoon. Since 2012, Araibi has been under constant threat from his homeland after he was arrested by Bahraini authorities due to the political activities of his brother during the Arab Spring protests. Like many others before him, Araibi stated that he was also subjected to torture during his time in jail in the country.
After being released, Araibi immediately sought asylum in Australia. Australian immigration authorities understood that Araibi would face execution if sent back to Bahrain. Thus, Australia automatically ruled out any possibility of extradition and Araibi was officially granted political asylum in the country in 2014.
Hence, the dilemma of the Bahraini refugee and his recent detainment has raised several significant questions regarding Interpol, as it has clearly backed numerous countries that have been documented for human rights abuse cases. Will Interpol continue to aid these countries in seeking ‘wanted’ individuals, even when abuse precludes the possibility of extradition in most countries? To what extent should these countries be allowed to utilize Interpol for their own agendas? Most importantly, what is Interpol’s agenda?
Radha Stirling, an international extradition expert and CEO of Detained in Dubai, commented that “in 2015, Interpol announced that they would not consider any listing request pertaining to an asylum seeker or refugee requested by the country from which they had fled. Thus, Bahrain’s request for a Red Notice against Araibi should have been initially rejected. It is Interpol’s responsibility to ensure that their rules are adhered to, especially regarding Red and Blue Notices. Araibi is a refugee who was granted asylum by Australia. According to Interpol’s internal protocols, he should have been immune from a Red Notice request by Bahrain.”
Countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates constantly misuse Interpol as a means for debt collection, even though private financial disputes fall beyond Interpol’s mandate. Gulf countries use the threat of a Red Notice to extort debtors often, even when they have been making payments or negotiating with creditors. The GCC continues to attempt and force them to capitulate with the demands of local business partners under the threat of an Interpol listing. When individuals apply for removal of such listings, they are usually granted on the grounds that they do not meet Interpol’s criteria.