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8 years commemoration of missing lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit


Press Release Muslim Attorney Center Foundation and Cross Cultural Foundation For immediate release on 12 March 2012

The Eighth year commemoration of Enforced Disappearance of Thai Human Rights Lawyer, Somchai Neelapaijit As complacency prevails, impunity continues unabated, no more an “eye for an eye”

On 12 March 2004, Mr. Somchai Neelapaijit, human rights lawyer, became a victim of enforced disappearance. His last clients were alleged offenders in the gun robbery case taking place in January 2004 in Narathiwat Province, in Thailand’s Deep South, and they were complaining about their being tortured to confess. Eight years passed, and his family and civil society organizations have to continue to demand justice done to the disappearance of Mr. Somchai and the torture of his clients. But the demands have fallen on deaf ears. Worse, 14 victims of torture while being held in custody by officials including Mr. Somchai’s three clients, have been sued back for making false reports by the high ranking police officers, who could have been involved with the enforced disappearance of Mr. Somchai and given consent to the torture of his clients.

Access to justice concerning enforced disappearance and torture seems to be blocked. In the past eight years, attempts have been made by human rights organizations and even governmental officials to raise awareness in public and among security and justice personnel about enforced disappearance and torture. Community, the victims’ relatives and the victims themselves have come out to demand justice and to raise awareness among military and police officials about the importance to combat torture, unlawful detention and enforced disappearance. Litigations have been launched to set new legal precedence in Thailand’s justice system including the demand of civil compensation and administrative accountability as some governmental officials have consented to such cruel treatments.

Damage done owing to the disappearance of Mr. Somchai Neelapaijit and other torture victims as well as the loss of lives among governmental officials and civilians during unrest in the Southern Border Provinces in the past eight years is enormous. Even now, torture continues unabated and attacks are still aimed at innocent people and officials making general public feel numb and take for granted the ongoing violence. And as complacency prevails, impunity continues unabated and an “eye for an eye” solution is replacing normal justice system. Under the rule of law, if governmental officials are still allowed to abuse civilians and stay unpunished, it will lead to major stumbling blocks toward an effort to restore lasting peace. Such impunity will simply intensify frustration and anger among people and the violent situations will spiral into an abyss.

It has been eight years and no one has been brought to justice, though the enforced disappearance has been committed by state officials against Mr. Somchai Neelapaijit. Existing justice mechanisms simply make it possible for state officials to sue back victims of torture. And the cases have been admitted by the Court and the trials against the torture victims have been conducted without any respect of their fundamental constitutional rights and despite the fact that they have been subjected to torture committed by state officials. And the laws simply allow the abusive officials to sue back the torture victims instead of provide for proper access to justice and truth. It should be reiterated by the “eye for an eye” revenge shall not lead to any fruitful result. Rather metric system and the rule of law should be established to ensure access to justice among sectors and this shall help to put out protracted violence in the Southern Border Provinces.

For more information, please contact:

1. Anukul Awaeputae, Chairperson of Muslim Attorney Centre (MAC), Pattani
2. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, Access to Justice and Legal Protection, Cross-Cultural Foundation (CrCF)

Note: Lawyer for Lawyer (L4L) is an independent and non-political Dutch foundation which seeks to promote the proper functioning of the rule of law by pursuing freedom and independence of the legal profession. L4L does this by supporting lawyers worldwide who are threatened or suppressed in the execution of their profession. L4L released letter campaign on 12 Mar 2012 please join at http://www.advocatenvooradvocaten.nl/6602/thailand-joint-letter-to-thai-authorities/

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