Thailand: UN review is an opportunity to end pervasive torture

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Thailand must take urgent steps to put an end to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and immediately enact and enforce legislation to recognize torture as a criminal offence, Amnesty International said today as Thailand is up for review by the UN Committee Against Torture.

“Torture and other ill-treatment are still endemic problems across Thailand, and the fact that torture is not yet recognized as a crime highlights the need for the government to take concerted action,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.

“Thailand’s engagement with this UN review is welcome and does offer an opportunity to address long-standing concerns. But for this engagement to be meaningful, Thailand must follow through with genuine action to end torture.”

On 30 April 2014, the UN Committee Against Torture will examine Thailand’s record on torture and other ill-treatment in the first review of Thailand’s fulfilment of its obligations set out by the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

In its submission to the UN Committee Against Torture, Amnesty International documents long-standing practices of torture and other ill-treatment in military and police custody in Thailand, as well as concerns around prison conditions, including heavy overcrowding in prisons and immigration detention centres, where refugees and migrants may face indefinite detention and are vulnerable to torture and other ill-treatment.

Between 2007 and 2013, Thailand’s National Human Rights Commission received a total of 134 complaints about torture and other ill-treatment. Just over 75 per cent of these came from the country’s southern provinces, where security forces have frequently employed torture and other ill-treatment in the context of the ongoing insurgency.  

Police stand accused of frequently employing torture and other ill-treatment, in particular against suspects in drug related cases. In 2013, a police officer even admitted in the media that it was “not uncommon” for police to physically assault suspects.

Impunity is the norm for torture cases, with only a handful of suspected perpetrators held to account, and in the absence of the criminalization of torture tried under charges such as assault. 

Amnesty International is calling on all agencies in Thailand with responsibility for detainees and for laws and regulations governing detention to engage in a coordinated, comprehensive and systemic review to recognize and amend laws, policies and practices that facilitate torture and other ill-treatment and impair victims’ access to remedies.

“The Thai authorities must act now to show their commitment to stamping out torture and other ill-treatment,” said Rupert Abbott.

“Steps should include putting in place practical safeguards against torture, recognizing it as a criminal offence, holding suspected perpetrators to account and granting reparations to victims.”

“The government should also open places of detention to independent scrutiny, and take the further step of ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.”

Amnesty International’s full submission to the UN Committee against Torture can be found here: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA39/003/2014/en

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