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No justice for Somchai Neelapaijit after 11 years

Paris, Bangkok, 12 March 2015: Thailand must urgently ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED) and step up efforts to investigate the enforced disappearance of Somchai Neelapaijit, FIDH and its member organization Union For Civil Liberty (UCL) said today. The two organizations made the call on the 11th anniversary of Somchai Neelapaijit’s disappearance.

Somchai Neelapaijit, a lawyer who defended the rights of members of Muslim communities in Thailand’s restive provinces of Songkhla, Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat, was abducted and disappeared on 12 March 2004. According to eyewitnesses, a group of individuals forced him into a car on Bangkok’s Ramkhamhaeng Road. Despite strong circumstantial evidence of his death, Somchai’s body was never found.

“Somchai’s enforced disappearance is as much a crime today as it was 11 years ago and will remain so until the Thai government reveals the details of the crime and holds those responsible accountable,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji. “Thailand must ratify without delay the ICPPED and adopt legislation that makes enforced disappearance a crime punishable with adequate penalties,” he urged.

Thailand signed the ICPPED in January 2012, but it has not yet ratified the treaty. After the ratification of the ICPPED, Thai authorities will have an obligation to investigate enforced disappearances and bring those responsible to justice with regard to cases that occurred prior to the ratification. On 30 April 2014, during the 52nd session of the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT), Thailand made only a vague commitment to ratify the ICPPED “in the near future.” [1]

“For too long, Thailand has denied justice to Somchai’s family. It’s time for the Thai government to grant Angkhana Neelapaijit and her children the effective remedy and reparation they are entitled to as a result of Thailand’s legal obligations under international law,” said UCL Chairman Jaturong Boonyarattanasoontorn.

Article 2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand is a state party, recognizes the right to access to an effective remedy and to full reparation for family members of victims of human rights violations listed in the covenant.

In connection with Somchai’s disappearance, the Bangkok Criminal Court acquitted four police officers of the charges of coercion and gang-robbery and convicted Police Major Ngern Thongsuk of coercion on 12 January 2006.

On 11 March 2011, the Court of Appeals upheld the acquittal of the four police officers accused of coercion and gang-robbery and overturned the conviction of Police Major Ngern Thongsuk.

On 21 May 2014, the Supreme Court rejected the admissibility of key phone evidence against the five acquitted police officers who had been originally accused of being involved in Somchai’s disappearance.

 

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