HR Groups Urge UN to Seek Australia-Based Hakeem Al-Araibi's Freedom from Thai Jail
2018-12-15 - 9:43 p
Bahrain Mirror: Supporters of the Australia-based refugee Hakeem al-Araibi have petitioned the United Nations to seek the young footballer's freedom from a Thai jail cell, where he awaits extradition to Bahrain over a conviction he says is politically motivated, reported the Guardian.
It said that the urgent appeal submission was compiled by rights groups including Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy.
It was addressed to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and a number of high-ranking UN representatives including the special rapporteur on torture, and the working group on arbitrary detention.
"ADHRB and BIRD submit that the extradition of Mr Al-Araibi to Bahrain would constitute an unlawful refoulement, and would be in violation of Thailand's international legal obligations," it said.
Al-Araibi had been tortured before, and likely would be again if he was extradited to Bahrain, it stressed.
"The United Nations Committee Against Torture's concluding observations found "widespread torture and ill-treatment" in Bahrain, and noted that a "climate of impunity" exists in Bahrain in regards to torture, considering the low number of convictions for torture."
Al-Araibi was convicted in absentia in 2014 by a Bahraini court, based on the coerced confession of his co-defendant and brother, Emad Ali Mohamed al-Araibi, who said that the two of them and 150 others vandalised a police station at 6.30pm. The court instead concluded that the time of the incident was 8pm, the submission said. The submission detailed key evidence it claimed showed Al-Araibi's innocence, including video footage of the match Al-Araibi was playing on the night of the alleged crime, and claims that it would have been "physically impossible" for him to travel between the two, even going by the court's timing of 8pm.
"Despite this alibi being presented to the court through Mr Emad al-Araibi's defence, the court disregarded this evidence and convicted Mr Al-Araibi in absentia", it said.
"In addition to ignoring exculpatory evidence, the court also disregarded the allegations that Mr Emad al-Araibi's confession was obtained through physical and psychological duress."
A translation of the court ruling, provided to Guardian Australia, ruled there was not sufficient evidence of physical or psychological violence because there was no sign of injuries and, when asked, the defendants said they had not been abused.
"The court does not need to respond to the evidence presented by the defence. It is sufficient to take the evidence that was conclusive in showing that they committed the crime," it said.
Human Rights Watch's deputy Asia director, Phil Robertson, said the OHCHR was sympathetic to Al-Araibi's situation and was among groups making overtures to the Thai government for his release. Other government embassies, including the US, Sweden, and Germany, had also lobbied on his behalf, Robertson said.
He said Australia had to ensure it was exerting "maximum pressure" on Thailand to bring him home, particularly after the revelation that the AFP informed Thailand of his travel.
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