Bill on torture to go before Thai National Legislative Assembly

BANGKOK (The Nation/ANN) - New law, which will also prevent enforced disappearance, hailed by rights activists.

A crucial bill to prevent torture and enforced disappearance will soon enter the legislative process. 
The National Legislative Assembly (NLA) is expected to consider this bill on December 20. 
Rights activists have hailed the draft law as the best tool to date to deter torture and enforced disappearance. Prominent lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit, Karen-ethnic activist Pholachi “Billy” Rakchongcharoen and villager-turned-activist Den Khamlae are among those who disappeared mysteriously.
According to Amnesty Thailand, at least 59 human-rights defenders have been victims of enforced disappearance during the past two decades. 
“It’s good that the bill seeks to criminalise torture and enforced disappearance in all circumstances, including during wars and political unrest,” Cross Cultural Foundation director Pornpen Khongkachonkiet said yesterday. 
The director-general of the Rights and Liberties Protection Department (RLPD), Somn Promaros, said the bill would also impose punishments against a direct supervisor who was aware of but failed to stop his/her subordinates from carrying out torture or enforced disappearance. 
“Penalties are a jail term of between five and 25 years, and/or a fine of between Bt100,000 and Bt300,000,” he said.
He added that the punishments would increase if the victims were pregnant women, dependent persons or physically challenged. 
“There are clauses for remedial actions for the victims, too,” he said.
According to the draft law, the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) will be in charge of investigating cases of enforced disappearance and torture. Only in events where DSI officials are accused of such crimes will police be assigned to investigate. 
Somn said the NLA whip had already approved the bill. 
“On December 11, the whip will study the bill further and will forward it to the NLA,” he added. 
Somn said if the bill was turned into a law, every government agency involved in restrictions of people’s rights would have to compile a database of people subjected to restricted rights. 
“Such an agency would also be required to outline measures to stop torture, once detected, and provide remedy,” he explained. 
Pornpen said the Justice Ministry and several lawyers were behind this draft law. 
“It has been prepared based on the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance,” she said. 
Pornpen said the bill was very modern, and appreciated the fact that the bill would also bar Thailand from deporting any person who was at risk of enforced disappearance and torture. 
She said after the bill becomes law, the number of enforced-disappearance and torture cases in Thailand should see a reduction. 
“I believe supervisors will keep a closer watch on their subordinates,” she said. 
When the bill becomes law, a committee on the prevention of enforced disappearance and torture will be established, chaired by the justice minister. Committee members will include human-rights defenders, doctors and psychologists. 

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