Urgent diplomatic intervention required.
American citizen Sherif Osman, who was arrested in Dubai earlier this month and faces extradition to Egypt over criticisms he posted on social media against the regime of President Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi, cannot be deported on the basis of an Interpol Red Notice, Radha Stirling confirmed today.
Stirling is the founder and CEO of Detained in Dubai and IPEX, an organisation dedicated to Interpol and extradition reform, and recently became involved in Osman’s case. The Egyptian-born former army officer is being sought by Egyptian authorities for YouTube videos he posted criticising the regime and advocating peaceful protests during the COP27 meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh.
Both the American embassy in the UAE and Osman’s attorney stated that a Red Notice had been issued by Interpol against him at the request of Egypt, and that he had been arrested in Dubai pursuant to that listing. However, shortly after Stirling publicised the case, demonstrating the clear political motivation behind the arrest and extradition request, Interpol distanced itself from the matter.
“Following our exposure of the case,” Stirling said,” Interpol announced that Sherif Osman is not subjected to a Red Notice and that any deportation proceedings must be carried out bilaterally between Egypt and the UAE. When I asked if they could confirm whether or not the Red Notice had been deleted, or had never been issued, I did not receive a reply.
“It is noteworthy that Interpol contacted me about Sherif’s case within days of our publication; when the normal procedure for checking an individual's status on the Interpol database requires a formal request which takes weeks to process. This would not be the first time an international warrant has been surreptitiously removed once it has been determined to be political in nature; either way, we are happy to confirm that Sherif is not listed on the Interpol database at this point; however, relations between Egypt and the UAE are notably strong, and without intervention by the US government, his deportation remains dangerously likely.”
Stirling warns that if Osman is extradited to Egypt his life will be in peril. “Roughly half of all prisoners in Egypt are political prisoners, and hundreds die in custody every year. Torture is routine and police and prison officials are completely unaccountable. Just two years ago American journalist Moustafa Kassem died in an Egyptian prison, and we are gravely concerned that the same will happen to Sherif without immediate and urgent involvement of the American government,” she cautioned.
Radha Stirling has been the leading voice calling out Interpol abuse by countries like the UAE, Qatar, Egypt, and Turkey; and has successfully lobbied for the removal of wrongful Red Notice listings for nearly 15 years. Her organisation, IPEX, also provides Interpol prevention services for clients who may be at risk of being subjected to an abusive listing. “A great deal of work still needs to be done, not only to address Interpol’s fairness, efficiency, and lack of transparency, but also with the international protocols governing extradition,” She explained, “Authoritarian countries, whether through manipulation of Interpol, or through bilateral relations, have created a de facto transnational jurisdiction that circumvents accepted standards of due process which puts anyone at risk who travels outside established democratic countries. This, essentially, is what we are seeing in Sheriff Osman’s case, and cases like his are precisely why reforms are needed.”