Thailand: Lawyers and civil society hold consultations on protecting rights and the use of force during protests

On 13 and 20 February 2021, the ICJ, jointly with Centre for Civil and Political Rights (CCPR Centre), held two consultative sessions on international law and standards relating to the right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and the use of force in law enforcement operations.

The discussions took place against the backdrop of recent widescale protests in Thailand, in which people exercising the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression were met with sometimes unlawful force by security units.

Twenty-five Thai and international lawyers, civil society representatives and academics attended both discussion sessions, some participants in person and others online.

The 13 February session focused on relevant international law and standards relating to the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and the use of force in law enforcement operations, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand is a party, The sessions were led by Daisuke Shirane, CCPR Centre Asia Pacific Coordinator; Badar Farrukh, OHCHR Regional Office for South-East Asia Human Rights Officer; and Chonlathan Supphaiboonlerd, ICJ Associate Legal Adviser.

Participants considered the exercise in practice of the rights to freedom of expression and information, rights that have recently been unduly restricted in Thailand.  Such restrictions were said to have resulted in violations of the rights of individuals who increasingly rely on online platforms, particularly social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, to share information on the protests and to express their opinions on the reform movement.

The session included a Q&A session with Christof Heyns, former member of the UN Human Rights Committee and Special Rapporteur on summary, arbitrary and extrajudicial executions. The discussion focused on the scope of the right of peaceful assembly, COVID-19 related restrictions, the State’s duty to facilitate peaceful assembly, and the international legal requirements of legality, necessity and proportionality on State’s response against the protesters.

In the 20 February consultation, Aram Song, attorney of the MINBYUN-Lawyers for a Democratic Society from South Korea, shared with the participant his experiences representing victims of human rights violations arising from police responses to protesters.  He discussed the unlawful use of force and the constitutionality of regulations and ordinance that restricting the right to expression and peaceful assembly in the courts. Thereafter, Gayoon Baek, Chief Secretary of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of the Republic of Korea, gave her views on how to conduct advocacy through international human rights mechanisms to ensure the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

This workshop is part of the ICJ’s ongoing efforts to bring existing Thai laws in compliance with international laws and standards that regulating the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

Further reading

Thailand: ICJ co-hosts round-table on right to peaceful assembly

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