Hakeem al-Araibi, a 25-year-old refugee soccer player from Bahrain, will remain in a Thai jail for at least two months as he prepares to fight an extradition request from his native country.
Al-Araibi claims the Bahraini government arrested and tortured him in 2012 because of his outspoken criticism of the country’s human rights record. Two years later, al-Araibi was sentenced to ten years in absentia for allegedly vandalizing a police station. He fled to Australia as a refugee in 2017.
In November, al-Araibi boarded a flight to Bangkok, and Australian authorities alerted Thai officials that the soccer player was the subject of an INTERPOL Red Notice issued by Bahrain. Thai police arrested al-Araibi upon his arrival in Bangkok.
Article 3 of INTERPOL’s Constitution expressly prohibits the international police organization from “undertak[ing] any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character.” Several authoritarian governments, such as Russia and Turkey, however, have recently come under fire for their abuse of the red notice system as a tool to punish political opponents.
Numerous human rights organizations have criticized the Thai government’s handling of the al-Araibi case. Human Rights Watch has launched a digital campaign called “#SaveHakeem” to encourage athletes and the public to write Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to demand al-Araibi’s release.
For the IELR Blog’s previous coverage on INTERPOL red notice abuse, see here.