Released on 19 Dec 2014
On 19 December 2014, the Justice for Peace Foundation (JPF), the Amnesty International Thailand, the Union for Civil Liberties (UCL), and the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF) have jointly proposed recommendations to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice and the Director General of the Rights and Liberties Protection Department regarding the Draft Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance Act B.E….., an attempt to ensure that Thailand’s domestic laws are made in compliance with its international obligations. Through this draft law will realize that, both torture and enforced disappearance are to be criminalized as a serious human rights violation and punishment is provided proportionately to the gravity of the offence. The next reviewing session on the Bill is going to be organized by the Ministry of Justice on 22 December.
The recommendations have determined from a public discussion held to review the Bill and the ensuing brainstorming during 1-2 December at TK Palace Hotel among participants from the Muslim Attorney Centre Foundation (MAC), Duay Jai Group, Lahu Human Rights Network, Patani Human Rights Network, Relatives of Victims of Enforced Disappearance, and representatives from various governmental agencies who were there to learn and give their comments. The seven-page document in Thai containing the recommendations has been produced based on the input and submitted to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice and the Director General of the Rights and Liberties Protection Department to ensure that the Bill will be written in response to the incumbent realities in Thailand. In summary, the recommendations are that;
1. An act of torture and enforced disappearance is often inflicted on certain vulnerable and marginalize populations including the ethnic groups, political dissidents such as human rights defenders or those living in area where special laws are imposed to, i.e., crack down on narcotic trafficking, suppress terrorism, or suppress influential persons, etc.
2. Attempts to investigate cases concerning torture and enforced disappearance have often been unsuccessful, and no cases have been brought to the justice system. This could be attributed to that the competent authorities often fail to exercise their power independently and impartially, or are not keen on resolving the case or fail to carry out a prompt investigation as a result of the interference made by influential persons. It is therefore important that personnel designated with the mandate to carry out the investigation must have proven expertise and received proper training. They should be able to work professionally and independently in order to garner trust from the victims and their relatives.
3. The examination and treatment of victims of torture must be carried out by medical personnel and psychologists with specialized skills on torture examination. In this Bill, there should also be a framework to determine remediation including compensation and physical and mental rehabilitation and training on Manual on Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Istanbul Protocol) should be provided for all concerned officers including medical personnel.
4. In this Bill, a provision must be made to ensure that the case of enforced disappearance shall be promptly, impartially and effectively investigated in order to bring to justice the perpetrators even though the disappeared person even we could not be found and no part of his or her body. It must be recognized that the right to know the facts regarding the plight of the victim must be respected.
5. The current Bill still lacks effective and clear guidelines regarding witness protection. It should be made clear in the Bill that the officials designated to provide witness protection must not come from the same agency which has been accused of committing either the torture or enforced disappearance. This is to ensure that no perpetrator can influence witness protection mechanism.
6. The Bill is still made an exception to allow a denial of request by the relatives or other people for information in relation on holding a person in an undisclosed place, if the information could have given rise to harm to the person and hinder criminal investigation. Such concealment of information can contribute to risk of an act of torture and enforced disappearance. Such a waiver and restriction is conflicting to the absolute prohibition against torture and enforced disappearance and it should be reconsidered.
7. According to international law, a systematic act of torture and enforced disappearance constitutes a crime against humanity. Neither a waiver of punishment nor an amnesty can be offered even during the time an emergency situation is declared.
8. Access to legal support should be promoted among the victims and their relatives. Therefore, the Bill should spell out guidelines through which the persons can have access to help from the Justice Fund and to bring their cases to the Court. This will ensure access for all among the victims who want to pursue the justice process.
For more information, please contact
Angkhana Neelapaijit, JPF phone 084-7280350
Pornpen Khongkachonkiet , CrCF Phone 02-6934939
Justice for Peace Foundation (JPF)
Amnesty International Thailand
Union for Civil Liberties (UCL)
Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF)