Public statement of Thai lawyers and attorneys
Judicial Harassment against human rights lawyers
Mr. Anond Nampha, a human rights lawyer, has been summoned by the Royal Thai Police to answer to a contempt of court charge for “insulting either a Court or a judge during the trial process or when a verdict is delivered and for falsely and fraudulently bringing into computer system data which is either false or distorted, in part or in whole, the act of which may cause damage to the public, save for a libelous act according to the Penal Code.” The case has been reported to the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) by Pol Lt Col Supharat Kamin.
Mr. Anond Nampha has been working as a human rights lawyer and fighting for justice. He litigates on a number of public interest cases concerning natural resources and the environment, community rights, access to justice, being part of a team of lawyers on the enforced disappearance case of an ethnic Karen human rights defender and other cases concerning restriction of the right to freedom of expression. It is believed that his roles in these litigations have brought him these criminal charges.
We, fellow lawyers and attorneys, are here to show our solidarity with Anond today and are concerned about the enforcement of the law by the police who are exercising the powers of the state and we have the following to say;
- An offence of contempt of court exists to ensure an uninterrupted course of justice and to provide a Court or a judge protection to ensure they can execute their duties independently, impartially and fairly. Therefore, an injured party in such cases should either be a Court or a judge. But the case herein has been reported by the police. It has thus given rise to a question if the Court or the judge wants to initiate such legal action or not. Even though it was either a Court or a judge who had reported the case, it would still give rise to concerns if such exercise of the powers by either the Court or the judge is too excessive or not.
- Laws should be interpreted with consideration to people’s rights and freedoms. Previous Constitutions and the incumbent one place much emphasis on protecting people’s rights and freedoms obligating the state to always exercise its powers while considering impacts on people’s rights and freedoms. Restriction of such rights and freedoms should be an exception as provided for by a specific law, albeit such restriction shall not infringe on the material rights and freedoms. Criminal laws and criminal procedure laws can impact people’s rights and freedoms since the state is allowed to restrict certain rights and freedoms. Thus, the interpretation of criminal laws has to be made strictly and carefully. Otherwise, laws can become a tool used by the state to impede on people’s rights and freedoms.
- The interpretation of criminal law has to be made strictly. Since criminal laws can impact rights and freedoms, they have to be subject to strict interpretation. A criminal accusation against someone, including a contempt offence, has to be clearly substantiated, i.e. that an offensive word has been uttered against the Court. Technically, to insult is to subject either the Court or the judge to a berating or degrading verbal act during the trial, for example by saying that a particular judge has been bribed and as a result, the person has lost the case or by saying that a particular judge is impartial and lacks fairness when adjudicating one’s case. Without such material evidence, the police should refrain from exercising their power on such contempt case. Otherwise, it could be assumed that the police have made such interpretation of the law simply to restrict people’s rights and freedoms.
- Legal interpretation has to be made in good faith. Every state officer acts on behalf of the state to protect public interest., Their exercising of power should be primarily geared toward protecting public interest excluding their personal interest. Otherwise, such officers can be held liable for an abuse of office, the violation of the Penal Code’s Section 157 for wrongfully exercising or not exercising any of their functions to the injury of any person or dishonestly exercising or omitting to exercise any of his functions. Therefore, the enforcement and interpretation of criminal law to hold a person to account has to be supported by sufficient facts and evidence. And such case must be explainable or describable as to why such alleged act is actionable and which provision of the law it has violated.
Based on the aforementioned reasons, we have found the case initiated by the police against Mr. Anond Nampha and other human rights lawyers who have performed their duties as lawyers to protect human rights including Lawyer Sirikan Charoensiri who represents student activists of Dao Din and New Democracy Movement (NDM) and other prosecutions against the villagers and other human rights defenders who have acted peacefully to protect human rights, community rights and democracy an enforcement and interpretation of the law that does not comply with human rights principles as prescribed for by the Constitution. Such prosecutions simply aim at stifling the right to freedom of expression, preventing their participation and action to protect human rights and preventing lawyers from performing their duties. Such legal actions should be a cause of concern for personnel in the justice process and general public. Attention should be paid by public officers to ensure that the enforcement and interpretation of the laws is correct and fair. This would enable people to come out and exercise their rights to protect their individual and public interest while lawyers can use their knowledge and professional expertise to effectively protect people rights. Since if a lawyer is prevented from fully delivering, their clients would be deprived of access to justice process and the protection of their rights.
With respect in human dignity and people’s rights and freedoms
Human Rights Lawyers Association