Thailand: allegations of torture against activist Kritsuda Khunasen require immediate investigation

The Royal Thai Government must conduct a prompt, independent and impartial investigation into allegations that military officers subjected Kritsuda Khunasen to torture, while holding her in incommunicado detention at a secret location for nearly one month, the ICJ said today.

On 27 May 2014, Kritsuda Khunasen, an activist associated with the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), and well-known for providing assistance to people arrested and detained following the political violence of 2010, was arrested by soldiers from the 14th Military Circle in Chonburi Province.

In an interview posted on YouTube on Saturday, Kritsuda Khunasen alleges that for the initial seven days of her detention she was kept blindfolded and her hands were bound.

She also alleges military officers beat her several times.

“Kritsuda’s allegations that she was subjected to torture and other ill-treatment as well as arbitrary detention by military officers are deeply concerning and require an immediate investigation,” said Wilder Tayler, Secretary General of the ICJ. “Her account, if verified, suggests that she is the victim of serious human rights violations which require that the perpetrators be held responsible and that she be provided with an effective remedy and reparation. Of fundamental importance is that any investigation be carried out by an independent and impartial body, particularly as the perpetrators are alleged to be military officers.”

While all these allegations have been denied by the military authorities, Kritsuda Khunasen added they suffocated her with a plastic bag and a piece of fabric, covering her head, until she lost consciousness, after which time she was placed in a zipped body bag.

A female officer bathed her and would take off her trousers so she could use the bathroom.

On one occasion she heard a man’s voice in the room while she was naked and blindfolded in the bath.

Under Martial Law, imposed throughout Thailand since the military coup of 22 May 2014, the military is authorized to hold people in administrative detention for no longer than seven days.

However, in Saturday’s interview, Kritsuda claimed that on 15 June, the military forced her to sign a document stating she had asked the military to allow her to stay in custody for longer than seven days and that she felt safer inside the military camp.

Initially, the military refused to acknowledge whether she was in detention.

But on 20 June, the military admitted that Kritsuda Khnasen had been detained and her whereabouts were not revealed to help her “meditate.”

And on 23 June, Kritsuda appeared on national television and said she had been “happier than words can say” during her time in the military camp.

She was released the following day, 29 days after her arrest. At no time during her detention was she brought before a judicial authority.

The absolute right of all persons to be free from torture and other ill-treatment in any circumstances is affirmed in a number of international human rights instruments, including two treaties to which Thailand is a party: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment(CAT). The ICCPR also provides for freedom from arbitrary detention.

If the allegations are substantiated, Kritsuda Khunasen’s case would be the first confirmed case of torture since the military coup, and would fly in the face of the National Council for Peace and Order’s public statements that there has been no torture since it took power.

It would also undermine Thailand’s repeated commitment to respecting and implementing CAT in Thailand – most recently before the Committee Against Torture in Geneva on 1 May 2014.

In it’s Concluding Observations, the Committee Against Torture expressed its deep concern at the declaration of Martial Law throughout Thailand and urged Thailand to “adhere strictly to the absolute prohibition of torture and ensure that the application of Martial Law throughout Thailand under no circumstances violates the rights guaranteed in the Convention.”

A state’s duty to prohibit torture and other ill-treatment includes a duty to initiate a prompt and impartial investigation when a complaint is made or, in the absence of a complaint, when the authorities have reasonable grounds to believe that such an act has been committed.

A failure by a state to investigate allegations of torture or other ill-treatment is a violation of the right to an effective remedy and the right not to be subjected to torture or ill-treatment.

International human rights law requires Thailand to carry out these duties notwithstanding the immunities provided to the National Council for Peace and Order and the military by Martial Law and the Thai Interim Constitution.

Thailand-Kritsuda case of torture-news-press release-2014-thai (full text in pdf)

NewsWeb stories