On 8th July 2020, the House of Representatives Committee on Legal Affairs, Justice, and Human Rights has deliberated on and passed the draft of the Protection and Prevention of Torture and Enforced Disappearance Bill B.E … (the Committee’s Bill) onto the House of Representative to be further proceeded in the legislative process.
The draft bill is a product of a cooperation of multiple Thai human rights NGOs as representatives of the civil society and the members of the House of Representatives under the Subcommittee on Justice Reform, which consists of MPs from both the government and the opposition parties, along with human rights and legal practitioners. This draft bill considered to be complied with the UN Convention against Torture (CAT) Thailand has ratified in 2007 and International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED) signed in 2012.
The bill seeks to cover all international standards including prosecution, prevention, protection and rights to reparation for victims of torture and enforced disappearance. The bill also criminalizes torture and enforced disappearance by state authorities to end the culture of impunity.
It lays out mechanisms to ensure transparency and accountability, along with preventative measures to torture and enforced disappearance such as laying out the right to be visited by families or independent investigating committee members, and the right to counsel. It also states that the place of detention and detainees’ physical condition must be reported.
Furthermore, the draft bill lays out mechanisms to file a complaint should torture be found, no matter which law or whose authority the individual is detained by. The bill also compensates and remedies the victims of torture and enforced disappearance, which also covers spouses, descendants, parents, life partners, and relatives, both legally and in practice, of the tortured or the disappeared. This serves those categories of people in representing the victims in court. There is no limit in statue of the case when the fate of the disappeared is known. Moreover, good civilians who report on torture or enforced disappearance cases, if done so with good intent, will be protected by witness protection.
The Committee’s version of the bill has been adapted from the people’s version which was submitted by representatives of human rights NGOs to the House of Representatives Committee Legal Affair, Justice, and Human Rights on 20th February 2020. Later, the draft was amended and went through draft law review process in its subcommittee on 18-17th and 24-25th June 2020. Today, the Committee approved of the report of the study and the draft bill, and submitted to the Speaker of the House. After this, it will be introduced to a select committee alongside the draft bills by the Ministry of Justice and other political parties. The bill then will be introduced to the house.
Cross-Cultural Foundation is grateful to the shared vision of the Committee members on the need for Thailand to have such a law that protects the rights of the people to be free from torture and enforced disappearances. This is a promising sign showing that MPs are aware of the problems and suffers from rights violation by the hands of authorities. The commitment of the committee to protect the interest of the people is much appreciated as this can be taken as the effectiveness of democracy which respects the voices of the people and seeks to protect their rights and liberty.
As such, we, the civil society, with media, should affirm the importance of the rule of law and of taking up rights as a citizen in monitoring and advancing the draft into a law to be a mechanism guaranteeing the security of life and that such cruel and dehumanizing acts will not again be committed in Thai society.