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Statement on the Judicial Harassment of Leading Human Rights Defender, Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet


Joint Statement – 25/08/2014

Statement on the Judicial Harassment of Leading Human Rights Defender, Ms.
Pornpen Khongkachonkiet

We, the undersigned civil society groups, are gravely concerned about the
criminal legal action taken for defamation and libel against the Cross
Cultural Foundation, headed by Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, by the Army’s
Task Force 41. Ms. Pornpen, Director of the Cross Cultural Foundation – an
organization which monitors and documents cases of torture and
ill-treatment in Thailand – received a police warrant on Sunday 24th August
2014. The Thai Royal Police warrant is dated from 8th August. Major
Leekit Katchodnok, acting on behalf of the Army’s Task Force 41,
filed a legal suit against Ms. Pornpen for libel and defamation. The army
accuses the Cross Cultural Foundation for damaging the reputation of the
army by publishing an open letter exposing a claim to torture. According to
the warrant Ms. Pornpen must present herself at the Yala Police Station, in
southern Thailand, on August 25th.

Ms. Pornpen is a leading Human Rights Defender in Thailand who has been
involved in various Human Rights issues both in Thailand and the region,
including women’s rights, indigenous rights and preventing forced
disappearances. Her work serves the public interest by ensuring that
authorities are held accountable and pressuring authorities to
unconditionally respect the Human Rights of all. As Director of the Cross
Cultural Foundation, Ms. Pornpen has constantly been monitoring and
documenting cases of torture and Human Rights violations in Thailand’s
southernmost provinces.

We deem the army’s action to be an unreasonable, arbitrary and heavy
handed attempt to silence all torture complaints against authorities. By
quashing Ms. Pornpen’s efforts to support torture victims to publicly
complain about Human Rights violations by authorities, the army is seeking
to make it more than impossible for torture victims to voice their
complaints. Moreover, this is a deplorable act by the army as it aims to
further intimidate existing and potential victims of human rights
violations to not report these violations. Instead of suppressing the work
of Human Rights Defenders, such as Ms. Pornpen, the army should investigate
all torture complaints and take all necessary measures to resolve the
problem of continuing Human Rights violations.

This judicial harassment constitutes a direct infringement of Ms.
Pornpen’s right to work as a leading Human Rights Defender in Thailand. As
stated in Article 1 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders
“Everyone has the right to (individually and in association with others)
promote and to strive for the realization of Human Rights and fundamental
freedoms at the national and international level.” We believe that the
filing of this criminal legal case against Ms. Pornpen was undertaken with
the purpose of intimidation and that it is in response to Ms. Pornpen’s
peaceful and legitimate activities to hold authorities to account for cases
of Human Rights violations, including torture, in southern Thailand.

We call on the army to:
Immediately and unconditionally withdraw the legal action against Ms.
Pornpen. Such legal action against the legitimate work of Human Rights
Defenders is against the public interest.
We call on the government to:
Respect the universally recognized rights, duties and obligations of
everyone and organizations to highlight information about Human Rights
violations and injustices to the public, as is stated in the UN Declaration
on Human Rights Defenders;
Ensure that all persons affected by torture and other human rights
violations, including the right to complain which must be respected at all
times, receive justice.

Signed by:
1. Union for Civil Liberties
2. Community Resource Centre
3. Human Rights Lawyers’ Association
4. Asia-Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development
5. Frontline Defenders
6. WOREC (Nepal)
7. National Alliance of Women Human Rights Defenders (Nepal)
8. Protection International

For more information, please contact:

Anucha Wintachai
+66 830796411