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NGOs Call on Interpol to Reform "Red Notice" System following Extradition of Ahmed Jaafar to Bahrain

2022-02-25 - 12:03 am

Bahrain Mirror: A number of human rights pressure groups, including Fair Trials, Human Rights Watch and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), have called on international policing agency Interpol to reform the way it handles ‘Red Notice' requests, following the recent extradition of Bahraini dissident Ahmed Jaafar Mohammed Ali from Serbia to Bahrain.

In their letter to Interpol general secretary Jürgen Stock on February 14, the three human rights groups said they had serious concerns that Interpol was not conducting adequate due diligence on Red Notice requests from Bahrain, leading to the misuse of the system.

The groups noted that, at the time the Red Notice was issued for Ali in 2015, information was publicly available indicated that he would be at risk of torture in Bahrain.

The groups also pointed to a number of other cases where they said Bahrain had misused Red Notice requests, including that of footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi, who was arrested while in Thailand, despite being recognized as a refugee by Australia. They also referred to the case of another dissident, Ali Haroon, who had also been arrested in Thailand and handed over to the Bahraini authorities. Amnesty International later said there were "credible reports that [Haroon] was tortured on return" to Bahrain.  

Bruno Min, legal director for Fair Trials, said: "Interpol has been repeatedly warned that the Bahraini authorities are misusing Red Notices to target dissidents and political opponents. The agency's failure to act on these warnings have consequences, and Ahmed's extradition could have been prevented, if Interpol had done a better job of preventing the misuse of its systems."

"We need more transparency from Interpol - otherwise we will never be sure what it is doing to avoid the same mistakes in the future."

Joe Stork, deputy director at Human Rights Watch's Middle East division, said the extradition "is a textbook example of how countries like Bahrain abuse Interpol's Red Notice system. This case spotlights how imperative it is for Interpol to address such abuses so that this cannot happen again, for the sake of victims like Ahmed Jaafar and for Interpol's reputation."

The concerns about Ali's case have been give added weight because of reports that he has been mistreated since being returned to Bahrain. Sayed Ahmed Al-Wadaei, advocacy director for BIRD, said on that Ali was beaten by a policeman in Jaw Prison and had been "forcibly transferred" to a part of the prison usually reserved for drug offenders.

"He is now suffering from severe pain in his chest due to the beating. Another Yemeni policeman told him: ‘We will make you bleed and we don't care'," said Al-Wadaei.

The Bahrain embassy in London did not respond to a request for comment on these allegations.

Ali was extradited, despite an order from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) that Serbia should not send him back until the court had heard more about whether he might be at risk of torture or ill-treatment in Bahrain.

Serbia had arrested Ali based on a request from Bahrain made through Interpol's Red Notice system, which allows a country to ask another state to arrest a wanted individual. In this case, the request was based on Ali's conviction in absentia in October 2013 for "joining a group with the intention of disturbing public order and using terrorism". Human Rights Watch has said the conviction followed an "apparently unfair" trial.

Ali's situation is one of a number of cases involving Bahrain where human rights concerns are being raised.

On February 22, a two-day hearing began in the High Court in London involving two London-based Bahraini dissidents, Moosa Mohammed and Saeed Shehabi, who are suing the Bahrain government for allegedly placing FinFisher spyware on their phones in 2011.

The Bahrain government also stands accused of using Pegasus spyware developed by Israel's NSO Group, to hack the phones of at least three Bahraini nationals critical of the ruling regime, as well as other prominent figures in the country.

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