Somchai Neelapaijit verdict important test of Thailand’s treatment of cases of enforced disappearance
The upcoming Supreme Court verdict in the case of Somchai Neelapaijit is an important test of Thailand’s treatment of cases of enforced disappearance, the ICJ said today.
The Supreme Court is expected to rule on whether the Court of Appeal was correct in overturning the conviction of one police officer for coercion and upholding the acquittals of four other police officers, and whether Somchai Neelapaijit’s family should be permitted to participate in the proceedings as plaintiffs.
The case concerns the 2005 trial of five police officers for coercion and gang-robbery after Somchai Neelapaijit, a leading Thai lawyer and human rights defender, was last seen on 12 March 2004 being pushed into a car by several men in Bangkok.
In March 2014, the ICJ published a report in Thai and English, which summarises the history of the case and provides a background to the upcoming decision, which will be delivered in Bangkok on 29 December 2015.
“This decision is an important milestone in the long and torturous history of this case,” said Sam Zarifi, the ICJ’s Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific.
“But whatever the result, Thailand must not waver from its repeated commitments to promptly and effectively investigate this enforced disappearance, to seek to identify those responsible and bring them to justice, and to provide the family with full remedies and reparation,” he added.
The police never charged the five police officers with more serious crimes – despite the statements of numerous officials, including past Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, expressing certainty about his death – as Somchai Neelapaijit’s body or remains were never found.
The Department of Special Investigations (DSI), often described as the FBI of Thailand, is still conducting an investigation into his fate or whereabouts.
Angkhana Neelapaijit, Somchai Neelapaijit’s wife and now Commissioner of the Thai Human Rights Commission, told the ICJ: “Ensuring that all victims of enforced disappearance have their rights fully recognised by the Thai courts is equally important to me as seeking justice in my own case. My long battle through Thailand’s justice system has shown me Thailand’s laws are currently inadequate to deal with cases of enforced disappearance and that significant reforms are needed before the rights of victims are fully recognized.”
Sam Zarifi, Regional Director, Asia-Paicific Programme, sam.zarifi(a)icj.org, +66 (0) 80 781 900
Kingsley Abbott, International Legal Adviser for Southeast Asia, Asia-Pacific Programme, kingsley.abbott(a)icj.org, +66 (0) 94 470 1345
On 11 December 2015, the ICJ published an English version of its Practitioners Guide “Enforced Disappearance and Extrajudicial Execution: Investigation and Sanction”, originally published in Spanish in March 2015.
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