The ICJ participated in a panel discussion to commemorate International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, organized by Police Watch Thailand and Cross Cultural Foundation.
The discussion was held at the premises of the Thai Journalists’ Association.
The event began with opening remarks by Surapong Kongchantuk, Chairperson of the Cross Cultural Foundation, who called on the Thai Government to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED) and for the existing Draft Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance Act (‘Draft Act’) to come into force without undue delay.
He also emphasized that perpetrators of the crime of enforced disappearance needed to be brought to justice, and victims and relatives of victims of enforced disappearance must be provided with effective remedies and reparation.
A panel discussion followed the opening remarks, moderated by Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, Director of Cross Cultural Foundation. Panelists included Sanhawan Srisod, ICJ’s National Legal Adviser, Veera Somkomkid, from People Anti-Corruption Network, Pol.Col. Wirut Sirisawadibuth, Columnist and police reform activist, and Adul Kiewboribon, Chair of a committee of persons whose relatives disappeared during May 1992 protests against the government of General Suchinda Kraprayoon.
In her remarks, Sanhawan Srisod expressed concern at the absence of domestic legislation making torture and enforced disappearance specific crimes in Thai law and gaps in the existing Draft Act.
She also called for prompt, independent, impartial and effective investigations into the fate and whereabouts of disappeared persons consistent with international law and standards.
Human Rights Commissioner, and wife of disappeared lawyer and human rights defender Somchai Neelapaijit, Angkhana Neelapaijit, made closing remarks for the event.
The panel discussion followed a forum the ICJ co-hosted in March this year, commemorating the 14th year anniversary of the enforced disappearance of Somchai Neelapaijit, which also raised awareness about amendments to the Draft Act.
During the forum, the ICJ raised concerns about the independence of the ‘Committee managing complaints of torture and enforced disappearance cases’, which was established in May 2017, and expressed the need for further clarification on the legal framework – domestic and/or international – that will ground the Committee’s operation.
The International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances falls on 30 August every year.
Thailand is bound by international legal obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) – both of which it has acceded to – to investigate, prosecute, punish and provide remedies and reparation for the crimes of torture, other acts of ill-treatment, and enforced disappearance.
However, Thailand has not enacted domestic legislation recognizing enforced disappearance as a criminal offence. Thailand is also yet to ratify the ICPPED, despite signing the Convention in January 2012.
Thailand’s Ministry of Justice concluded a second round of public consultation on the Draft Act and is now reportedly in the process of evaluating the results of the consultation.
On 30 August 2017, 23 November 2017 and 12 March 2018, civil society organizations, including the ICJ, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, sent open letters to the Government, including to Thailand’s Minister of Justice, outlining amendments that would be necessary to bring the Draft Act in line with Thailand’s international human rights obligations.
In the absence of domestic legislation criminalizing torture and enforced disappearance, on 23 May 2017, a ‘Committee managing complaints for torture and enforced disappearance cases’ was established by the Prime Minister, pursuant to Prime Minister’s Office Order No. 131/2560 (2017).
The Committee, chaired by the Minister of Justice, consists of 15 officials drawn from different ministries,including the Ministry of Defence, the Royal Thai Police and the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC).NewsWeb stories