Thailand’s caretaker government must remove emergency measures throughout the country following the lifting of the Emergency Decree in the capital Bangkok and its surrounding provinces this week, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said today.
On 18 March, the caretaker government voted to lift the Emergency Decree (effective 19 March) that had been in place in Bangkok and surrounding provinces since 21 January 2014 in response to protests led by the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC).
At least 20 people have died in protest-related violence and hundreds have been injured.
The Emergency Decree was replaced by the Internal Security Act (ISA), which also does not fully comply with international standards, but provides better remedies for victims of human rights violations than the Decree.
“The imposition of the Emergency Decree creates an environment conducive to abuse of power and human rights violations such as arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and enforced disappearance,” said Sam Zarifi, ICJ’s Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific. “Lifting the Emergency Decree in Bangkok is a positive step, but it is crucial that the authorities remove the Emergency Decree and other measures of emergency rule, including martial law, that are in force in all or parts of at least 30 of Thailand’s 77 provinces.”
These measures should be replaced by law and action that are consistent with international human rights standards, Zarifi said, adding that martial law should not be used as a political tool.
The caretaker government must respond to demonstrations, unrest and emergencies in a manner which complies with its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and other international standards, including the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1979, and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, adopted by the UN Congress on the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders in 1990.
These standards set out the circumstances in which resort to necessary and proportional force may be lawfully exercised. Article 8 of the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms states that “exceptional circumstances such as internal political instability or any other public emergency may not be invoked to justify any departure from these basic principles.”
In order to safeguard the rule of law and enhance the protection of human rights in Thailand, the ICJ calls on the caretaker government to repeal the Emergency Decree and other emergency measures including martial law, and to ensure accountability for violent acts through the thorough and effective investigation of criminal acts and prosecution of those reasonably suspected of committing them, in the course of fair, human rights-compliant criminal proceedings.