Tag Archives: Convention against Torture

Torture still a dirty secret in Thailand

torture 500

(การทรมานยังเป็นความลับที่สกปรกในเมืองไทย)

A little over a week ago, the Bangkok Post reported that a special inquiry unit under Thailand’s Justice Ministry had asked the public prosecutor to lodge charges against six police officers for allegedly torturing a man in their custody.

The police in Ayutthaya, near Bangkok, hooded Ekkawat Srimanta and beat him all over his body to force him to confess to a robbery that he did not commit. Then they repeatedly electrocuted his genitals and groin.

Unlike many victims of police torture in Thailand, Ekkawat survived. And unlike most, he was released shortly afterward and admitted to hospital. The next day, photographs of his damaged body were published in major dailies. Senior officers rushed to his bedside, pretended that they cared if he lived or died, and made phony promises to look into things.

All that was five years ago. What happened since demonstrates the utter failure not only of the government of Thailand but also of its society to come to terms with the blight of torture, or do anything much about it. Continue reading

Sri Lankan torture case holds lessons for Thailand

Gerald Perera

A court in Sri Lanka has given a shocking verdict in a case of police torture. Both the judgment and chain of events that led to it contain many important lessons for people in Thailand.

Police in Wattala picked up Gerald Perera [pictured above] on June 3, 2002. They took the 39-year-old to their station, strung him from a beam and beat him with iron rods and wooden poles for about an hour in an effort to get him to confess to a murder.

They had the wrong man. Gerald knew nothing of the crime. His was a case of mistaken identity. But by the time that he was released he had suffered renal failure. Only protracted and expensive medical treatment saved his life.

Both Gerald and his wife had a strong sense of justice and great courage. Despite the obvious danger, they sought help to lodge complaints against the police. They asked to be compensated for breaches of Gerald’s constitutional rights, and initiated a criminal inquiry.

In April 2003 the Supreme Court found that Gerald had been beaten to within inches of his life while in custody. It said that the police accounts of what had happened were unsatisfactory and noted that three officers had admitted to using force during the arrest.

In awarding Gerald a record payout, the court said that it had “no doubt whatsoever” that he had been tortured. It added that by not rushing him to hospital the police also were guilty of committing cruel and inhuman treatment.

Buoyed up by these findings, Gerald prepared to testify again, this time in the case that the prosecutor had lodged under Sri Lanka’s anti-torture law, which carries a mandatory seven-year jail term.

He never spoke. Continue reading

We uphold rule of law, etc., etc.

un-human-rights-council-thailand.jpg

“I wish to point out that Thailand has already acceded to the Convention against Torture and we fully intend to adhere to our commitments and obligations under the Convention… Any case of alleged wrongdoing or abuse by state authorities or personnel will not be taken lightly and will be fully investigated…”

– Sihasak Phuangketkeow, Ambassador of Thailand, UN Human Rights Council

Watch video (go to Right of Reply – Thailand)

(Get a different view: Constistently counter-productive)

A first step towards ending torture in Thailand

torture-law-hands.JPG

torture-law-thai.JPG

Thailand at the start of the month acceded to the U.N. Convention against Torture, after years of work by many persons, among them human rights advocates and personnel in its justice ministry; the latter having convinced those in other parts of government that agreeing to the treaty’s terms would not be against their interests.

Torture is widespread in Thailand, largely because it remains nigh impossible to hold police or soldiers legally accountable for their crimes. When over fifty years ago police general Phao Sriyanond, himself an army officer, said that, “There is nothing under the sun that the Thai police cannot do,” he did not mean that the police were indomitable but rather that they were untouchable. His legacy survives today. The former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra pointedly quoted Phao when launching the deadly “war on drugs” in 2003.

Every year, rights defenders in Thailand document hundreds of cases of alleged torture while thousands more go unreported. Public campaigns are limited as victims are justifiably afraid and have few hopes for redress. Not a single accused has been brought before a court of law. Even in the most blatant cases, such as where people have been taken from police stations to hospitals with burns covering their genitalia, the perpetrators have remained beyond reach [see: here and here]. In the south, emergency regulations have placed the army so far outside of the justice system that the victims of its excesses do not even consider complaining to criminal investigators or the courts.

Given the prevalence and severity of torture in Thailand, and the impunity enjoyed by torturers, joining this treaty is an important step that must be backed by the legal and institutional changes needed to give it effect. They include the following.

Continue reading