World football’s governing body has a responsibility to speak up in defence of the detained player
The news refugee Bahraini footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi was detained by the Thai authorities on a “red notice” by Interpol has rocked the sports world. A “red notice” is a request to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition. Human Rights Watch has documented “red notice” misuse by China and other countries for politically motivated and wrongful arrests. In the latest turn to the story, Thailand’s immigration chief now says Bahrain requested the player’s arrest in advance of his arrival in Thailand, which suggests he was under surveillance even in Australia. Although the notice was lifted by Interpol, Al-Araibi is still in a Thai detention centre facing imminent deportation to Bahrain, where he risks imprisonment and torture.
Fifa, the powerful global football federation, has clear rules on player rights, human rights and human rights defenders, and has the leverage to prevent the refugee football player’s forced return to Bahrain. That means Al-Araibi’s case is a true test of Fifa’s new human rights policy: will Fifa stand with a football player and defend him against rich and powerful human rights abusers like the Bahraini government?