Thai authorities discussed how to improve investigations of serious human rights violations during a workshop co-hosted by the ICJ, Thailand’s Ministry of Justice, and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
The two-day online event, held on 4 and 5 October and entitled “Training on the Istanbul and Minnesota Protocols”, focused on how to conduct investigations into alleged unlawful killings as well as torture, ill-treatment and enforced disappearances, and was attended by 30 criminal investigators, public prosecutors, representatives of the Ministry of Justice’s Department of Special Investigation (DSI), Department of Correction, the Central Institute of Forensic Science (CIFS) and the Internal Security Operations Command.
Over recent years, there have been reports of widespread human rights violations, including torture, ill-treatment while in custody, arbitrary detention and extrajudicial killings . Investigations into these allegations, prosecutions of perpetrators and provision of remedies and reparations to victims remain slow.
The workshop was organized two weeks after the Draft Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearances Act was approved by Thailand’s House of Representatives, in its first reading. It is currently reviewed by the parliamentary Committee Considering the Draft Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance Act before the second and third readings by the House of Representatives.
Sanhawan Srisod, Legal Adviser at the ICJ, presented a summary of the international human rights legal framework applicable to the investigation of unlawful deaths and enforced disappearance. She also introduced an outline of the revised Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016), which was launched in Thailand on 25 May 2017.
Kingsley Abbott, Senior Legal Adviser for Global Redress and Accountability at the ICJ and a member of the Working Group in revising the Minnesota Protocol, explained how to properly secure a crime scene and chain of custody in order to preserve the integrity of the evidence. Participants applied these skills in a group exercise based on case studies.
Other speakers included:
- Vitit Muntarbhorn, Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Law, Chulalongkorn University and former ICJ Commissioner;
- Duarte Nuno Vieira, Full Professor, Faculty of Medicine, University of Coimbra and Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board of the International Criminal Court;
- Badar Fafukh, Human Rights Officer, OHCHR Regional Office for South-East Asia; and
- Pratubjit Neelapaijit, Human Rights Officer, OHCHR Regional Office for South-East Asia.
This workshop is part of the ICJ’s ongoing efforts to ensure the domestic implementation of international law and standards on the investigation of potentially unlawful deaths and enforced disappearances.
The revised Minnesota Protocol, launched in 2017, is a set of international guidelines for the investigation of suspicious deaths, particularly those in which the responsibility of a State is suspected. It establishes detailed procedures for crime-scene investigations, interviews of suspects and witnesses, the excavation of graves, post-mortem examinations, and the analysis of skeletal remains.
The Istanbul Protocol, launched in 1999, outlines international legal standards and sets out specific guidelines on how to conduct effective legal and medical investigations into allegations of torture and ill-treatment.
The ICJ has held several Workshops in Thailand on the same topic including:
- Workshop on the Investigation of Unlawful Deaths and Enforced Disappearance for Authorities from Thailand (2017)
- Workshop on the Investigation of Unlawful Deaths and Enforced Disappearance for Lawyers from Thailand and India (2017)
- First Regional Workshop on the Investigation of Unlawful Deaths and Enforced Disappearance in Asia for State authorities from Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and Nepal (2018)
- Second Regional Workshop on the Investigation of Unlawful Deaths and Enforced Disappearance in Asia for State authorities from Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar (2018)
- Workshop on the Investigation of Unlawful Deaths and Enforced Disappearance for Authorities from Thailand (2019)
- Workshop on Interviewing Techniques and Standards for Authorities from Thailand (2019)
- Workshop on the Investigation of Unlawful Deaths and Enforced Disappearance for Authorities, Lawyers and Medical Professionals from Thailand’s southern border provinces (2020)