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Bosnia and Herzegovina: Stop extradition of rights defender at risk of torture or ill-treatment, say UN experts

GENEVA (10 February 2021) – UN human rights experts* today urged Bosnia and Herzegovina to halt the extradition of Musaed Al Masailim to Kuwait, where he faces 87 years’ imprisonment and risks irreparable harm upon return.

“We urge authorities to safeguard the rights of Mr. Al Masailim and not to expel, return or extradite him to a country where he is in danger of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment as well as arbitrary detention,” they said.

Al Masailim was first arrested in Kuwait in 2015 and charged with publicly disrespecting the Emir through tweets. He was acquitted on those charges in 2016 but 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.

“We are alarmed that he was sentenced without being given an opportunity to defend himself against the charges. We are seriously concerned that on his return, he would not be afforded due process rights including a guarantee of a fair trial,” they said.

Following an extradition request issued by Kuwait in April 2020, in connection with allegations of defaming and insulting the Emir and the judiciary, Al Masailim has been under house arrest in Sarajevo pending investigation and an extradition hearing ruling.

A public session of the Court of Sarajevo was held on 5 February 2021 but the judge did not announce a ruling.

“The principle of non-refoulement under the Convention Against Torture must be assessed independently of refugee or asylum status determinations, so as to ensure that the fundamental right to be free from torture or other ill-treatment is respected in all circumstances and regardless of questions of status,” the experts said.

“We call on the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina to suspend the process of extradition, and immediately undertake a detailed and individualised risk assessment with a view to ensuring the full respect of its obligation under international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law.”

The experts will continue to engage with the authorities and closely monitor the situation.

The experts: Mr. Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Mr. Felipe González,Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; Ms Irene Khan,Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of freedom of opinion and expression; Working Group on Arbitrary Detention: Leigh Toomey (Chair-Rapporteur), Elina Steinerte (Vice-Chair), Miriam Estrada-Castillo, Mumba Malila, Seong-Phil Hong
The Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
UN Human Rights, Country Page – Bosnia and Herzegovina

For more information and media requests, please contact: Koat Aleer (+41 22 917 9194 / kaleer@ohchr.org) .

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Renato de Souza (+41 22 928 9855 / rrosariodesouza@ohchr.org)
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