Constitutional Court blocks Decree postponing anti-torture act

The Constitutional Court has ruled that an Emergency Decree postponing implementation of several sections in the new Prevention of Torture and Enforced Disappearance Act is not in line with the Constitution, declaring it invalid. This means that the act goes into effect in its entirety.

Amnesty International Thailand, along with activists and families of enforced disappearance victims, filed a petition with the Minister of Justice in February to demand that the Prevention of Torture and Enforced Disappearance Act is enforced. (Photo from Amnesty International)

In February 2023, the Cabinet issued an Emergency Decree postponing the enforcement of Sections 22 – 25 in the new Prevention of Torture and Enforced Disappearance Act until 1 October, after the police said they were not ready to implement measures required by the Act and were still purchasing equipment and training personnel.

The postponed sections require police officers to keep a continuous record of an arrest and of information on the detainee and the manner of their arrest, which must be accessible to family members, lawyers, or official commissions.

The Prevention of Torture and Enforced Disappearance Act was passed by parliament in August 2022. It became law on 24 October 2022 when it was published in the Royal Government Gazette with the provision that it would come into force after 120 days, or on 22 February 2023.

On 28 February 2023, the Emergency Decree went to parliament for approval. However, 99 MPs submitted a joint petition to the House Speaker to have the Decree forwarded to the Constitutional Court for a ruling on whether it complied with Article 172 of the Constitution, which states that such Decrees can only be issued in case of an emergency, or for national security, public safety or economic security, or to prevent a natural disaster.

This forestalled attempts to have parliament itself reject the Decree and put the law into immediate effect.  Many saw the referral to the Constitutional Court as a tactic to delay enforcement of the law until after the election. 

The Constitutional Court ruled on Thursday (18 May) by 8 votes to 1, that the Emergency Decree postponing the Prevention of Torture and Enforced Disappearance Act does not comply with Article 172 and declared it invalid. The Prevention of Torture and Enforced Disappearance Act is therefore considered to have been in effect since 22 February.


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