Today, the ICJ submitted recommendations to the Committee Considering the Draft Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance Act (‘Draft Act’) and urged that the Draft Act be amended without delay in order to ensure compliance with Thailand’s international legal obligations.
The Act, if properly conceived and implemented, will help ensure that Thailand is able to effectively address the crimes of torture and enforced disappearance, including by holding perpetrators accountable.
The Committee was recently set up by Thailand’s National Legislative Assembly (‘NLA’) to review the Draft Act, under discussion since 2017.
The recommendations were made with respect to the most recent amendments to the Draft Act that were approved by the NLA, in its first reading on 20 December 2018.
The ICJ’s recommendations reflect proposals for changes that ICJ and Amnesty International jointly first submitted to the Ministry of Justice on 23 November 2017.
While the ICJ welcomes the NLA’s decision to retain certain sections regarding emergency situations and non-refoulement in the Draft Act, it expressed concern at a number of deficiencies that would need to be addressed in order to bring the Draft Act into line with Thailand’s international human rights obligations, including the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances (ICPPED).
The key concerns include:
- Incomplete definitions of the crimes of torture and enforced disappearance, as well as of other key terms;
- Absence of provisions concerning cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment (“CIDT/P”);
- Inadequacy of provisions relating to modes of liability for crimes described in the Draft Act;
- Inadequacy of provisions on the inadmissibility in legal proceedings of statements and other information obtained by torture, CIDT/P and enforced disappearances as evidence in legal proceedings; and
- Insufficient safeguards against torture, CIDT/P and enforced disappearances.
Thailand is a State party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and UNCAT, and has signed, but not yet ratified, ICPPED.
The Draft Act was produced by the Ministry of Justice in consultation with non-governmental organizations and other civil society actors. Public hearings on the Draft Act, as required by the 2017 Constitution, were conducted through a series of meetings, including a forum that was co-hosted by the ICJ.
The evaluation of the public hearings was prepared by the Ministry of Justice and included the recommendations that were submitted by the ICJ and Amnesty International in November 2017. However, not all of the critical issues raised were satisfactorily addressed.
The amended Draft Act was proposed to the Cabinet, which later forwarded it to the NLA.
Thailand’s NLA requires three readings of a bill before it can be passed into a law.
On 20 December 2018, the Draft Act was approved by the NLA, in its first reading, during meeting No. 86/2561, with 167 supporting, 3 against and 15 abstaining.
Consequently, 15 Committee members were appointed to review the bill within 45 days before to the second and third readings by the NLA. 10 of 15 members of the Committee are from the Thai military, police or navy.
The Committee’s revision of the Draft Act was due to have been completed by 2 February 2019, but this deadline has reportedly been extended for another 30 days.
The NLA will reportedly stop passing any laws before the national elections, due to be held on 24 March 2019, and will be terminated on the day prior to the date of convocation of the first sitting of the National Assembly after the elections.
The termination of the NLA would leave the status of the bill in doubt, and at the least mean significant delays in its consideration and passage.
Thailande-Torture and enforced dis-Advocacy-non legal submission-2019-ENG (full text in English, PDF)
Thailande-Torture and enforced dis-Advocacy-non legal submission-2019-THA (full text in Thai, PDF)