Updated: Monarchies, a refugee and erasing human rights I

29 01 2019

Yesterday we posted on the rising reach and power of the monarch. We can’t help wondering if we shouldn’t have also mentioned the sad case of former Bahraini footballer and refugee Hakeem al-Araibi.

His case has been the subject of considerable agitation in Australia, which had granted him refugee status. Of course, it was also the dullards at the Australian Federal Police, under the thumb of extreme right-wing Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton, who informed counterparts in Thailand of Hakeem’s approved trip to Thailand for his honeymoon, despite an invalid Interpol red notice.

It is now more than two months since Hakeem was detained in Bangkok.

A photo from The Guardian

There’s been considerable pressure on the military dictatorship to return Hakeem to Australia. Most recently:

Craig Foster, former captain of the Australian national football team and human rights activist, called for Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to respect Australia’s sovereignty and allow Hakeem to return to Australia, since he has already been given asylum by the Australian government. Foster noted that, currently, there is an international campaign calling for Hakeem’s release, since this is not a lawsuit, but is a case of refoulement, which violates international law and the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT), to which Thailand is a state party. Foster also called for FIFA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to seek possible measures to boycott the Football Association of Thailand and Bahrain and to ban them from taking part in international competitions, since Hakeem is a refugee who is being held in prison unlawfully and unnecessarily. And if the Bahraini government asks for Hakeem to be returned to Bahrain, Foster called for FIFA to take part as an independent observer in all meetings related to Hakeem’s case.

Recently, FIFA:

… issued a letter to Gen Prayut, Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs Don Pramudwinai, and Thai Minister for Tourism and Sports Weerasak Kowsurat, expressing their concern about Hakeem’s detention and possible extradition. FIFA called on Thailand to allow Hakeem to return to Australia.

FIFA also called for a meeting with Thai authorities.

Meanwhile, Nantana Sivakua, Thailand’s Ambassador to Australia, responded to Australian media saying: “there is an Interpol red notice against Hakeem, and the case needs to be processed according to extradition laws.”

Thailand has previously stated that extradition formalities would continue through until about mid-February.

The claims by the Ambassador were contradicted by Phil Robertson, Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division, observed that:

the Interpol red notice has been lifted since Hakeem is a recognised refugee. Robertson also said that if a country that respects international law knew of Hakeem’s refugee status, he would be sent back to Australia. Torture is normal in Bahraini prisons, and extraditing Hakeem under a charge from a Bahraini court would be a violation of the UN Convention against Torture.

As far as we know, there is no extradition treaty between Thailand and Bahrain. In international law a state has no “obligation to surrender an alleged criminal to a foreign state, because one principle of sovereignty is that every state has legal authority over the people within its borders.” Most civilized states do not surrender those accused of political crimes.

It seems that it is only in recent days that Bahrain has “submitted documents for the extradition of Hakeem…”. The Bahrain government issued a statement that “confirmed it has submitted the formal extradition request.”

Remarkably, then, it seems that Thailand has detained Hakeem for two months without a red notice and without a formal extradition request. Or, as the Bangkok Post reports it, there was a “legally invalid Interpol Red Notice.”

HRW’s Robertson made another comment that brings this post back to its top line. He “called into question the circumstances of Hakeem’s arrest. He suspects that this is a political game between Thailand and Bahrain…”.

In our first post on Hakeem’s case, PPT noted that the reasons for Thailand’s strange actions on the case are: first, Bahrain, like Thailand, is a monarchy, one just a little more absolute than the rest; second, both Bahrain and Thailand are holding rigged elections, and both have been chummy since the 2014 coup; and third, Thailand maintains a fiction of not really recognizing refugees and has a sorry recent history of allowing other repressive regimes to pick up refugees in and from Thailand.

It seems to us that the case can only be understood if one focuses on the strong links between the palaces in both countries.

Update: Thai PBS reports that the “International Olympic Committee has joined FIFA and other supporters of former Bahraini national footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi in demanding the Thai government to free him from detention and allow him to return to Australia.” It is added that “Thailand’s IOC member, Khunying Patama Leeswadtrakul, had asked the Thai government ‘to find a solution based on basic human and humanitarian values’,” and that “IOC president Thomas Bach had personally discussed the situation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Mr Filippo Grandi.” For the purported love of monarchy, Thailand is risking more international disdain.


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