Thailand must strengthen its efforts to solve the apparent enforced disappearance of Karen human rights defender, Pholachi “Billy” Rakchongcharoen, who “disappeared” one year ago this Friday, said the ICJ.
“Thailand must strengthen its efforts to carry out a thorough and effective investigation into Billy’s fate and whereabouts in a manner that complies with its international obligations,” said Kingsley Abbott, International Legal Adviser at the ICJ.
“As part of this process, it is essential that the authorities evaluate the investigation objectively to ensure it has been carried out independently and impartially, that the necessary resources have been allocated, and that all investigative opportunities have been pursued,” he added.
The ICJ reiterates its call for the Department of Special Investigations (DSI) to assume responsibility for the investigation because of the need for the DSI’s special expertise.
The DSI has the power to assume jurisdiction over special criminal cases including complex cases that require special inquiry, crimes committed by organized criminal groups, and cases where the principal is an influential person.
A six-day habeas corpus inquiry monitored by the ICJ and which concluded on 17 July 2014, and a subsequent appeal delivered on 26 February 2015, were unsuccessful in shedding any light on Billy’s fate or whereabouts.
Thailand, as a Party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, is required to investigate, prosecute, punish and provide a remedy and reparation for the crime of enforced disappearance.
Billy (photo) was last seen on 17 April 2014 in the custody of Kaeng Krachan National Park officials. The officials claimed they detained Billy for illegal possession of honey but released him later the same day.
Billy had been working with ethnic Karen villagers and activists on legal proceedings the villagers had filed against the National Park, the Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, and the former Chief of Kaeng Krachan National Park concerning the alleged burning of villagers’ homes and property in the National Park in 2010 and 2011.
The Royal Thai Government has signaled its recognition of the gravity of the crime of enforced disappearance, and its commitment to combating it, by signing the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance on 9 January 2012.
The Convention affirms the absolute right not to be subject to enforced disappearance and places an obligation on states to investigate acts of enforced disappearance and to make it a criminal offence punishable by appropriate penalties that take into account its “extreme seriousness”, and to take the necessary measures to bring those responsible to justice.
Kingsley Abbott, ICJ International Legal Adviser, t: +66 (0) 94 470 1345 ; e: kingsley.abbott(a)icj.org
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