Thailand: ICJ and ISHR submit communication to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women

On 30 December 2018, the ICJ and the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) jointly submitted a communication to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee) directed against Thailand.

They did this as a State Party to the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (the CEDAW Convention) on behalf and with the consent of Angkhana Neelapaijit, regarding the alleged enforced disappearance of her husband, Somchai Neelapaijit.

Somchai Neelapaijit, a prominent lawyer and human rights defender, disappeared after being stopped on a road in Bangkok on 12 March 2004 and pulled from his car by a group of men. He has not been seen since. More than 14 years after his alleged enforced disappearance, Somchai’s fate and whereabouts remain unknown.

Prior to his disappearance, Somchai had been defending clients from Thailand’s southern border provinces and had been doing extensive work to advocate for the rights of persons accused of terrorism, and to highlight the treatment of Malay-Muslims in the region.

The joint communication by ICJ and ISHR to the CEDAW Committee submits that Thailand has breached Articles 2(b)(c)(f), 5(a)(b), 15(1) and 16(1)(c)(d) of the CEDAW Convention, which relate to the rights of women to substantive equality and protection from all forms of discrimination, including in all matters relating to marriage and family relations, as well as to their right to an effective remedy for violations of the abovementioned provisions.

The communication further highlights the impact of enforced disappearance on family members of a disappeared person, noting its disproportionate impact on wives and female relatives, as most cases of enforced disappearance in Thailand involve male victims.

In addition to the CEDAW Convention and its Optional Protocol, Thailand is a party to a number of other international human rights instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. In January 2012, Thailand also signed the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED), thereby committing itself to refrain from acts that would defeat the object and purpose of that treaty, namely the prevention and prohibition of the crime of enforced disappearance.

The ICJ has consistently called upon the Thai authorities to comply with their obligations under international human rights law to independently, impartially and effectively investigate the case of Somchai Neelapaijit and all other reported cases of enforced disappearance, and provide the families of the victims in such cases with access to effective remedies and reparations, including regular updates on the status of the investigations.

The ICJ has also submitted recommendations to the Thai authorities on the current Draft Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearances Act, highlighting the crucial need for a domestic law to define and criminalize enforced disappearance and torture in line with Thailand’s international obligations.

Thailand-Communication to CEDAW-Advocacy-2019-ENG (full submission, in PDF)


Livio Zilli, ICJ Senior Legal Adviser & UN Representative, email: livio.zilli(a)

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On the 10th anniversary of Somchai Neelapaijit’s alleged disappearance, the ICJ released a report ‘Ten Years Without Truth: Somchai Neelapaijit and Enforced Disappearances in Thailand’ documenting the legal history of the case.

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