Abhisit and the ICC

1 11 2010

The Bangkok Post has an editorial regarding the Amsterdam & Peroff  “Preliminary Report into the Situation of the Kingdom of Thailand With Regard to the Commission of Crimes Against Humanity” submitted “On Behalf of The United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship and Others.”

After reading the editorial, PPT wonders if anyone associated with the editorial even read the Amsterdam report, considered the issues raised or even read the Post’s own news reports on issues such as judicial corruption. We will explain, without endorsing everything in the Amsterdam preliminary report.

The editorial begins: “Last week’s announcement that the red shirts and ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra hope to indict Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva for crimes against humanity in the International Criminal Court is a shocking misuse of the justice system.”

The report names Abhisit, but he is just number one in a “preliminary list of  15 “key government officials and military officers, most of them high-ranking members of CRES, who are known to have participated in the formulation of the policy under which the crimes described in [the] document.”

The editorial continues: “Thaksin’s dependably tasteless US lawyer Robert Amsterdam did the paperwork and public revelation. In short, he has filed a request on behalf of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship to the ICC to indict Mr Abhisit.”

While we may wonder about the shot at Amsterdam, the report does not seek to indict Abhisit. Rather, it seeks to make a preliminary case, to bring the Thailand situation to the attention of the International Criminal Court Prosecutor, with the aim of eventually making a case that, while Thailand has not ratified the ICC statute, that the situation “can be brought within the jurisdictional ambit of ICC, which will be dealt with in a separate document filed on behalf of the UDD and others in approximately eight weeks.”

With no argument made, the editorial states: “Right-thinking people will denounce this blot on justice and Thaksin, in particular, should order an immediate halt.”

Why? How is this a blot on and justice system? The case made is that the Thai state has engaged in illegal actions. Perhaps the emphasis on justice could more easily be questioned in the context of the debasement of the Thai legal system, demonstrated time and again in recent years. Amsterdam and his fellows make a case and seek legal redress, something that seems impossible in Thailand. Ask those subject to imprisonment and secret trials for lese majeste. Ask those who watch clips of judges making corrupt deals.

The editorial then seeks to blame the ICC for the case: “the ‘preliminary report’ exposes a major flaw in the whole setup of the ICC. By its own rules, the court is obliged to take the document seriously. Senior officials at the court must consider even this wild allegation by an uninvolved, third party who was on the other side of the world when the UDD rallies took place.”

Actually, Amsterdam claims that he was in Bangkok when final crackdown against the red shirts took place. But that is hardly the point. Rather, it is that the frustrated elite opinion is that there’s little wrong with the Thais state (repeatedly) killing its own citizens and that the ICC is to be faulted for deeming it necessary to consider allegations regarding state violence.

As evidence for this claim, the Post says this: “And the request to indict the sitting prime minister on the grave charge of crimes against humanity illustrates well the strong reservations successive governments have had against the ICC.”

What? Let him off if he’s a sitting prime minister? It seems so. Then it is added that killing civilians is “politicized.” And, it says, “Thailand is one of 114 other countries which signed the Rome Statute creating the ICC in 2002, but never has ratified the treaty. Thai experts have long feared political enmity would misuse this noble attempt to set up a true world court. Many other countries agree, including the United States, Russia, Iran, the Philippines and China.” Each of these no-ratifiers are arguably guilty of multiple crimes that ought to be at the ICC too. See the U.S. story here.

By the way, we think the real figure on ratifiers not signing is 35, not 114. There are 113 members.

The editorial states that “The purpose of the ICC is to credibly bring to account the most reprehensible dictators. Intervention would take place only when a nation became so broken, its leaders so tyrannical, that only a world court could save the country.”

That’s not accurate either. The ICC “is an independent, permanent court that tries persons accused of the most serious crimes of international concern, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.” It is a court of last resort but here’s the important bit: “It will not act if a case is investigated or prosecuted by a national judicial system unless the national proceedings are not genuine, for example if formal proceedings were undertaken solely to shield a person from criminal responsibility.” That is the case being made in the preliminary report.

Then the editorial gets positively inane when it says there is “healthy disagreement over the clashes in April and May. There are strong feelings about Mr Abhisit’s order to the army to end the rallies on May 19. But there is no national breakdown of law or of order. Mr Abhisit will be accountable to the nation next year, at a general election.” A “debate” on a cover-up of many deaths is “healthy”? Really? This argument flies in the face of logic and law. It also brings to mind arguments made about Thaksin, elections and voting.

The real rub seems to be that the Post people are worried that the publicity associated with the allegations to the ICC is “harmful way to the country’s name and reputation. This is an abuse of the justice systems of both Thailand and the international community.” That’s what matters. That’s one reason why Abhisit was made prime minister; his job was to fix Thailand’s international reputation following the coup. Instead, he has made it worse.

The Post should get its facts straight and make a logical and legally-based case rather than prattling on about a friend and relative in trouble.



5 responses

1 11 2010
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