Thailand: immediately end the practice of arbitrarily detaining persons in unofficial places of detention

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Thailand should immediately end the practice of arbitrarily detaining persons in unofficial places of detention said the ICJ today.

The statement came after it was revealed that human rights lawyer, Prawet Prapanukul, who had been arbitrarily detained for five days at a detention facility inside a military base in Bangkok, finally appeared and was charged at the Bangkok Criminal Court on 3 May 2017.

During the morning of 29 April 2017, military officers invoked Head of National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Order 3/2015 to arrest Prawet Prapanukul and search his residence in Bangkok, seizing a number of items located at the property including computers, phones and hard-drives.

The whereabouts of Prawet Prapanukul were unknown until the afternoon of 3 May 2017, when Prawet Prapanukul contacted several lawyers including Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) and said he had been held at the Nakhon Chaisri temporary remand facility inside the 11th Army Circle military base in Bangkok.

“Prawet Prapanukul’s five-day incommunicado detention without being brought before the courts or access to legal counsel amounts to an arbitrary detention in violation of his rights under international law and consequently he should be provided with appropriate reparation,” said Kingsley Abbott, the ICJ’s Senior International Legal Adviser for Southeast Asia.

To ensure the protection of all persons while in detention, Thailand has a duty to detain people in officially recognized places of detention, to have their names and places of detention made available to interested persons and to bring them before a court without delay within 48-hours,” he added.

According to TLHR, on 3 May 2017, Prawet Prapanukul was charged with ten counts of the highly restrictive crime of lese majeste (article 112 of the Criminal Code), three counts of a sedition-like offence (article 116 of the Criminal Code), and violation of article 14(3) of the Computer Crime Act.

The ICJ has previously raised concerns about abusive recourse to these laws.

Pursuant to article 91(3) of the Thai Criminal Code, it is possible that, if convicted of these charges, Prawet Prapanukul could receive a maximum sentence of 50-years imprisonment.

“Freedom of expression, as protected under international law, must never be criminalized. In any event, imprisonment is never a proportionate penalty for the exercise of free expression, let alone the unthinkable possibility of 50-years, which would set a new recorded record for a sentence for lese majeste,” Abbott said.

On 25 April 2017, after reviewing Thailand’s compliance with its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand is a State Party, the Human Rights Committee, the international expert body charged with supervising the implementation of the ICCPR, issued its Concluding Observations in which it noted that in Thailand “individuals were reportedly often detained without charge and held incommunicado at undisclosed places of detention for periods of up to seven days, with no judicial oversight or safeguards against ill-treatment and without access to a lawyer.” The Human Rights Committee observed that Thailand should immediately release all victims of arbitrary detention and provide them with full reparation.

“The fact that Thailand arbitrarily detained Prawet Prapanukul at a military facility just five days after the Human Rights Committee issued its Concluding Observations criticizing Thailand’s practice of detaining people incommunicado in undisclosed placed of detention demonstrates a worrying contempt for its international human rights obligations as pointed out by the Committee,” Abbott added.

Contact

Kingsley Abbott, ICJ Senior International Legal Adviser for Southeast Asia, t: +66 94 470 1345 ; e: kingsley.abbott(a)icj.org

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