Rights groups slam Royal Jet over Bahrain extradition flight

The Emirati airline flew dissident Ahmed Jaffar Mohammed Ali from Serbia to Bahrain, where he faces torture, rights groups say.

Ahmed Jaafar Mohamed Ali
Ali was extradited on January 24, despite an ECHR ruling he could not be sent home pending further investigation [Screen grab/Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain]

Emirati airline RoyalJet may have violated a European Court of Human Rights injunction and UN conventions on human rights by carrying out the “wrongful” extradition of a Bahraini dissident from Serbia, a group of human rights groups has said.

Ahmed Jaffar Mohammed Ali, 48, was extradited on January 24 under an international arrest request dating back to 2015, despite an ECHR ruling he could not be sent home pending further investigation.

The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) last week cited the Strasbourg-based ECHR as saying Ali should not be extradited before February 25 to give it time to examine “possible risks of torture and/or ill-treatment that the applicant would face if extradited to Bahrain”.

In a letter to Royal Jet on Monday, 11 human rights groups said an A6-RJC plane belonging to the private airline – which is based in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates – flew Ali from the Serbian capital Belgrade to Bahraini capital Manama where he was handed over to the Bahraini authorities.

“We fear that by using your company’s aircrafts to carry out Mr Ali’s wrongful extradition, you may have played an active role in violating the ECHR’s interim measures and article 3 of the UN Convention against Torture, which enshrines the principle of non-refoulement,” the groups said in the letter published on the website of Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB).

“You have also violated the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, under which business enterprises’ responsibility to respect human rights requires that they seek ‘to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to their operations, products or services by their business relationships, even if they have not contributed to those impacts’.”

Ali had been convicted of “terrorism-related offences” – a charge often handed down to many who are perceived by the state as dissidents.

On January 25, Bahrain’s interior ministry said Ali was extradited “after coordination and communication with a friendly country”.

He has been handed three life sentences in absentia and an additional 10 years in prison for “terrorism-related offences between 2012 and 2015, including murder, and manufacturing and possessing explosives”, it said.

The signatories to Monday’s letter – which included groups such as the Association for Victims of Torture-UAE, the European Center for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR), and the BIRD – said Ali had been subjected to torture by Bahraini authorities in 2007.

They said he had stated his intention to apply for asylum in Serbia on multiple occasions since his arrest in November 2021, due to the risk of torture and death he would face if returned to Bahrain.

The groups called on Royal Jet to explain its role in the extradition and to outline steps it would take to ensure its aircraft would not be used to carry out refoulement in the future.

Bahrain has prosecuted hundreds of protesters and banned main opposition groups after a failed uprising in 2011 that was led by members of the Shia Muslim majority in the country and crushed with the help of neighbour Saudi Arabia.

Most of the leading opposition figures and rights activists are imprisoned or have fled abroad.

Bahraini authorities have denied targeting the opposition and say they are protecting national security, and deny any discrimination against the country’s Shia citizens.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies