Thailand must live up to its repeated promises to bring justice to the case of Somchai Neelapaijit, who was forcibly disappeared eleven years ago today, said the ICJ.
In multiple statements since Somchai Neelapaijit was abducted on a street in central Bangkok, the Royal Thai Government has pledged to resolve the case.
Before the United Nations Human Rights Council in May 2008, the Royal Thai Government pledged “to do its utmost and leave no stone unturned in order to bring to justice the case of Mr Somchai.”
In April 2014, Thailand gave assurances to the UN Committee that monitors the implementation of the Convention Against Torture in Geneva that the Department of Special Investigations (DSI) was continuing to investigate Somchai Neelapaijit’s case without any interference.
“Despite the passage of eleven years, Thai authorities have not carried out a comprehensive investigation or exhausted the possible sources of evidence,” said Sam Zarifi, ICJ’s Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific. “What is required is the DSI’s real and determined effort to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice.”
Thailand signed, but has not yet ratified, the Convention Against Enforced Disappearance in January 2012.
Pending the ratification, Thailand must desist from any acts that would defeat the objective and purpose of the Convention, which among other things places an obligation on State Parties to make enforced disappearance a criminal offence, to thoroughly and impartially investigate cases, bring those responsible to justice and treat family members of a ‘disappeared’ person as victims in their own right.
Promisingly, the Ministry of Justice is in the process of drafting a Torture and Enforced Disappearance Prevention and Suppression Bill, which, in its current form, defines and criminalizes enforced disappearance and torture in Thailand.
“This new law must ensure there is no statute of limitations on enforced disappearance, which is not only a serious human rights violation but also a crime under international law,” added Zarifi. “Somchai’s fate and whereabouts remain unresolved, and his family continue to demand truth and justice from the authorities.”
To mark the 10-year anniversary of Somchai Neelapaijit’s “disappearance”, the ICJ released a report Ten Years Without Truth: Somchai Neelapaijit and Enforced Disappearances in Thailand, in which it documented the tortuous legal history of the case.
The report highlighted several key problems, such as poor use of forensic evidence, failure to follow and develop leads, unduly restrictive interpretation of national and international law, and above all, a lack of political will to resolve a case that remains emblematic of the culture of impunity in Thailand.
Sam Zarifi, ICJ Asia-Pacific Regional Director, (Bangkok), t:+66 807819002, e-mail: sam.zarifi(a)icj.orgNewsPress releases