۱۴ مهر ۱۴۰۱ |۱۰ ربیع‌الاول ۱۴۴۴ | Oct 6, 2022
Kuwaiti princess

Sheikha Moneera Fahad Al Sabah and blogger Mesaed al-Mesaileem say they face torture and possible death if extradited.

Hawzah News Agency – A Kuwaiti princess seeking asylum in Bosnia-Herzegovina says Kuwait is using an Interpol red notice issued against her partner, a well-known rights defender, to harass her and force their extradition back to the emirate.

Sheikha Moneera Fahad Al Sabah and Mesaed al-Mesaileem said they face torture and possible death if they are sent home, according to the Guardian.

Last year, the UN Human Rights Council urged Bosnia and Herzegovina to halt Mesaileem's extradition to Kuwait where he faces 87 years’ imprisonment.

Mesaileem was first arrested in Kuwait in 2015 and charged with publicly disrespecting the emir on Twitter. He was acquitted of those charges in 2016 but said he faced ill-treatment while in detention.

Since relocating to Sarajevo in 2017, he has been charged on three separate occasions for his tweets and was sentenced in absentia.

Both Sabah and Mesaileem have criticised Kuwait on social media, with Sabah, 35, alleging corruption in the emirate’s ruling family.

Sabah’s great uncle is Kuwait’s ruler, Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah, who came to power in September 2020.

'They’re going to kill me'

The couple told the UK newspaper that men identifying themselves as Interpol officers raided their home in April 2020, claiming they were acting on a red notice issued in 2018 on charges relating to possession of weapons.

Sabah told the Guardian she had received multiple threats to her safety from her family and other powerful figures in Kuwait.

“They’re going to kill me. They’ve raised some [legal] cases in Kuwait against me for assaulting the being of the royal family,” said Sabah.

“When I first started speaking about corruption, they accused me of being mentally ill, and said I need to be in an institute.

"So, I’m scared they will lock me up, take my phones away, not let me speak because I have a lot of secrets.”

Concerns over Interpol president

Rights groups raised concerns about the possible abuse of red notices, which act as international arrest warrants, to get hold of dissidents when Ahmed Naser al-Raisi, a United Arab Emirates general accused of torture, was elected president of Interpol in November.

Three European Parliament members wrote a letter in the same month to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to warn of the impact the general's appointment would have on Interpol.

"The election of General al-Raisi would undermine the mission and reputation of Interpol and severely affect the ability of the organisation to carry out its mission effectively," they wrote.

In October 2020, 19 NGOs, including Human Rights Watch, expressed concern about the possible choice of Raisi, whom they described as being "part of a security apparatus that continues to systematically target peaceful critics".

Alexis Thiry, legal advisor at Mena Rights Group, a Switzerland-based NGO that is providing legal representation to Mesaileem, told The Guardian: “States with poor human rights records are increasingly requesting extradition on the basis of political grounds.

“This is a very concerning development from a human rights perspective because such practice undermines the principle of non-refoulement, a rule of international customary law.”

Non-refoulement is a fundamental principle of international law that forbids a country receiving asylum seekers from returning them to a country in which they would be in likely danger of persecution based on "race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion".

Call for reform

Interpol has long faced criticism as an organisation for its failure to reform the Red Notice system, whereby member states can issue alerts to others that an individual is wanted for arrest.

Last month, several human rights groups called on Interpol to reform the way it handles such requests, after the recent extradition of Bahraini dissident Ahmed Jaafar Mohamed Ali from Serbia to Bahrain.

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

A total of 13,377 red notices were issued in 2019 and there are currently at least 62,000 live notices. They do not carry any official legal weighting and Interpol member states respond to them differently.

Although red notices can be appealed and removed if they violate Interpol's rules and constitution, the process can be difficult.

Yuriy Nemets, a US-based lawyer and expert in Interpol abuse cases, told MEE in 2019 that those wishing to dispute a red notice did "not have the right to a hearing, to examine evidence that governments produce against them, or the right to appeal the commission's decisions".

Sabah and Mesaileem's asylum claim has not been granted by the Bosnian government, leaving them in legal limbo. Deportation could happen at any time.

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