http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2009/11/17/national/national_30116798.php

Better access to justice needed in deep South: lawyers

By The Nation

A leading human rights organisation on Tuesday welcomed the decision to lift martial law in the four Malay-speaking districts in Songkhla but urged the government to do more in providing access to justice for the local people.

Spokesperson of the Cross Cultural Foundation (CCF), Pornpen khongkachonkiet, said access to justice, not to mention the quality of legal services, in the deep South needs serious examination.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Cross Cultural Foundation, along with the Muslim Attorney Centre (Mac), expressed concern over the abuse of human rights stemming from the enforcement of special laws, including martial law and emergency decree.

They urged the court to demand from arresting officers’ solid evidence and to review the reasons cited for the request for the warrant.

  “It has been found in several cases that after the case has been submitted by the public prosecutor to the Court, the facts concerning the reasons for the arrest differ from those mentioned in the request for the Emergency Decree warrant,” the statement from Mac and CCF said.

In the course of detention, the suspects are often kept from legal counselling and the court receives one-sided information from the state officials.

 Moreover, the court should arrange for the termination of the Emergency Decree warrant if the suspect is set off. Too often a suspect is detained at checkpoints because his name has not been removed even though the court has cleared the person, the statement said.

 The two organisations also urged the court to “strictly review the taking of evidence since evidence in security cases has often stemmed from the enforcement of special laws. It happens that the evidence derived at the inquiry level is simply hearsay evidence or an incriminating statement made by another accomplice.”

They also urged the public prosecutors to screen the cases and they should be courageous to stop short of prosecuting a case with weak evidence.

“They should also heed to statistics of cases concerning the charges of being a member of secret society or a member of a criminal association which have often been dismissed by the Court.  The statistic showed the high percentage of acquitted cases that prosecuted by public prosecutors at the criminal court (the court of first instance and the appeal court) and the number of weak prosecution files seemed to reaffirm the policy of preventive detention of suspects rather than prosecuting the accused persons with reasonable ground of evidences,” the statement said.

“There should be more public prosecutors to cope with a large number of cases. With insufficient number of public prosecutors, the cases might have to be often postponed,” the statement said.

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