27 Aug 2020: a network of relatives of victims of enforced disappearances and torture urge the House of Representatives to ensure legal protection by criminalizing Torture and Enforced Disappearance

Press Release

Today 27 August 2020 a network of relatives of victims of enforced disappearances and torture, human rights alliances and representatives from the public sector submitted a letter urging a prompt reading of the Draft Act on Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance B.E. … to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Honorable Chuan Leekpai.

To mark the International Day of the Disappeared on 30 August 2020, a network of relatives of victims of enforced disappearances and torture, human rights alliances and representatives from the public sector urge for the cessation of further delay in promulgating the Draft Act on Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance. Any further delays will deprive the public of needed protection and will enable government officials to continue committing the offence. They ask the House Speaker to promptly read the Draft Act on Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance during the current house session within Sep 2020.

On 21 December 2010, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution no. 65/209 because they were concerned over the increase in enforced or involuntary disappearances in various regions of the world and the increase in reports concerning harassment, ill-treatment and intimidation of witnesses or relatives of those who have disappeared. This includes arrests, detentions and abductions when these acts contribute to enforced disappearances. The UN General Assembly therefore adopted the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (CED) and declared 30 August: the International Day of the Disappeared. 

Enforced disappearances have often been strategically used by the authorities to spread fear within the public. They do not just cause suffering to the families and communities directly affected by the enforced disappearances,  but also have widespread impacts on society. Particularly if a victim is the breadwinner of their family, the economic hardship and social isolation the dependents face can be debilitating. It is therefore crucial to ensure the promulgation of a law that prevents enforced disappearances and torture while ensuring the victims have access to remedies.

Thailand acceded to the 1984 UN Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) on 2 October 2007 and Thailand signed the 2006 International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (CED) on 9 January 2012. Successive governments have prepared a draft law to ensure domestic compliance with international obligations pursuant to the two Conventions. But for various reasons, nearly a decade has passed and Thailand has yet to pass a domestic law despite domestic and international organizations urging Thailand to adopt a law without delay. 

To ensure domestic law is in compliance with the Conventions, the Draft Act on Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance B.E. was reviewed by the government. It was proposed to be read to the National Legislative Assembly by the cabinet on 23 June 2020. It was then sent back for further vetting by the Office of the Council of State. Since 2012, the draft law prepared by the government has been subjected to reviews and revisions by various concerned authorities and the Office of the Council of State, as well as public hearings. 

A network of relatives of victims of enforced disappearances and torture, human rights alliances and representatives from the public sector learned that the House Committee on Legal Affairs, Justice and Human Rights completed the review and revisions of the Draft Act on Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance B.E. ….. (CSO version) on 26 June 2019. The Draft Act also obtained support signatures from MPs of various political parties and was proposed to the House Speaker. MPs of various political parties, including the Democrat Party and the Prachachart Party, signed their names to support the reading of the Bill in the Parliament.  This demonstrates a consensus among MPs that want Thailand to adopt a law affirming an individual’s rights and freedoms to body and life. These MPs want to ensure everyone is free from enforced disappearances and torture, which are sometimes committed by government officials, and they want to criminalize enforced disappearances and torture committed by state officials. The Draft Act will also ensure that the perpetration of such acts will be completely prohibited without exception, including political reasons or circumstances such as war, Martial Law or the declaration of a state of emergency. In addition, it will prohibit any refoulement as a result of discrimination, including the deportation of a person that could expose them to torture, even if approved by the negligence or acquiescence of superior officials.

Measures will be put in place to prevent enforced disappearances and torture. This includes a requirement to record instances where a person is deprived of liberty, to allow said person to access their relatives, and to permit said person to consult with legal counsels. It will also ensure that only civilian courts have the jurisdiction to hear cases concerning enforced disappearances and torture. The Courts shall be vested with the power to review and halt the commission of the offence, as well as the power to ensure preliminary remedies are offered to the injured parties. 

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