Saturday, March 12, 2011
12 March, 2011
Until justice is rightly served
Seven years have passed since the enforced disappearance of Atty. Somchai Neelapaijit but the Thai government has still failed to render justice for him and his family.
Atty. Somchai Neelapaijit, a well-known human rights lawyer and defender, was made to disappear on 12 March 2004 in Bangkok, where he was last seen being dragged into a car by a group of armed men. His disappearance happened at the time when he was representing Muslim Thais in the southern provinces of Thailand who were accused of gun robbery but tortured by the police while in custody to extract forced confessions.
But after the seven long years of fighting for truth and justice by his wife and his family, his disappearance remains unresolved and his fate and whereabouts are still uncertain despite the conviction of a senior police officer with a lesser offense of coercion and robbery on 12 January 2006 but who was later released on bail pending an appeal. The Appeals Court has yet to render its final verdict due to the claim of the convicted police officer’s family that he went missing since the collapse of the Kwae Noi dam in Phitsanulok on 19 September 2008. After repeated postponements, the Appeals Court has recently issued an arrest warrant for the police officers and is scheduled to give its verdict today, 11 March 2011, while the Provincial Court is yet to render a decision on the disappearance claim.
This snail-paced progress of Atty. Somchai Neelapaijit’s disappearance case is a clear indication of the persisting climate of impunity for human rights violations in Thailand. It illustrates the difficulties in the investigation, prosecution and conviction of any forms of human rights violation under the existing Thai justice system even in a high profile case like that of Atty. Neelapaijit. The slow delivery of justice is undoubtedly undermining the rule of law and diminishing the trust and confidence of the Thai people in the democratic institutions particularly those in the southern provinces who are badly affected by continuing internal armed conflict and are very much susceptible to gross human rights violations including enforced disappearance.
The public pledges of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to prioritize human rights, to forge political reconciliation, and to establish accountability for human rights violations have not made any significant effects as these have largely been unfulfilled. It is reflected in its miserable failure to deliver justice and ensure equal protection under the Thai law.
The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearance (AFAD) believes that the Thai government can make a difference by making its commitment to human rights through its signature and ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and its immediate codification into a domestic law. For democracy to truly work, any government should warrant genuine justice and accountability.
In the light of the recent entry into force of the Convention on 23 December 2010, the states are not only given a clear standard for a better human rights protection but also concrete mechanisms to combat the global phenomenon of enforced disappearance, to bring perpetrators to justice and to provide reparation and redress to victims and their families.
As we commemorate the 7th anniversary of the disappearance of Atty. Somchai Neelapaijit, we express our strong solidarity with his family in their relentless pursuit for truth and justice. The sacrifices made by human rights defenders like Atty. Neelapaijit to make the world a better place to live in will always serve as our inspiration to continue working and fighting for human rights until justice is rightly served to all desaparecidos of the world.
Signed and authenticated by:
MUGIYANTO MARY AILEEN BACALSO