Sonja Toskovic from the Belgrade Center for Human Rights said that Serbia breached international and domestic human rights obligations by deporting the Bahraini national, Ahmad Jaafar Ali, to his home country despite an interim ruling by the European Court of Human Rights saying that the extradition should be postponed until the Strasbourg court completes its proceedings in the case on February 25.
“This is a historic moment, since it is the first time that an ECHR has not been respected [in Serbia]. This never happened before. It just shows that Serbia is a ‘captured state’ in which there is no legal safety or any actual rule of law,” Toskovic told BIRN.
Serbia extradited the political dissident to Bahrain on Monday, ignoring the Strasbourg court’s ruling, which was issued in response to a request by the Belgrade Center for Human Rights and the man’s lawyers.
He had been held in pre-trial detention in Serbia since November 2021, and he expressed the intention to seek asylum during the extradition procedure, claiming that he was at risk of being subjected to torture and political persecution if returned to his country of origin.
Ali had been detained and tortured by the Bahraini regime forces because of his opposition to the dictator regime. According to the Belgrade Center for Human Rights, he sustained severe physical injuries during the protests in 2011 in Bahrain’s capital Manama, when the police and army killed five and wounded around 250 people.
He was sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment in two separate trials, in 2013 and 2015.
There were nine other defendants in the 2015 proceedings, three of whom were sentenced to death and executed in 2017. The UN, the European Parliament and international human rights organizations criticized Bahrain for imposing capital punishment.
Both the European Convention on Human Rights and Serbian law prohibits the expulsion, refoulement or extradition of any person to another state where they might be at risk of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Serbian Justice Minister Maja Popovic signed the decision to extradite the Bahraini national on January 18, three days before the European Court’s interim ruling.
But Toskovic said interim measure should serve to prevent the execution of final decisions by national bodies.
“This is a precedent when it comes to human rights violations in Serbia. An even bigger problem is that maybe the man will not be alive at the end of this whole legal process, due to the policy of the Bahraini authorities,” she said.
This is not the first case in which Serbia has been accused of violating human rights when extraditing foreign nationals. In 2017, Serbia deported a Kurdish activist, Cevdet Ayaz, who had been subjected to torture, to Turkey, where he is now serving a 15-year sentence in the high-security Silivri Prison in Istanbul, where the Turkish state holds many political prisoners.
The UN Committee for Torture condemned Serbia for extraditing Ayaz to Turkey and said that Belgrade had violated his human rights.