Impunity and the judiciary

11 08 2011

According to a report carried by the Asian Human Rights Commission, it seems that the impunity enjoyed by officials is sanctioned by the courts.

As so vividly demonstrated in a recent BBC documentary on the bloody events of 2010,  officials in Thailand are almost never held to account for their illegal actions taken against civilians. Those illegal actions are usually undertaken in the name of the state and involve acts of repression.

The AHRC report is of a Bangkok court decision made on 10 August 2011 that sentenced Suderueman Malae to two years in jail for having “falsely implicated” Police Major General Chakthip Chaijinda in a case of alleged torture against Suderueman. Remarkably, the policeman was able to deny his involvement based on police records. According to the police record, although Chakthip led the unit responsible for the arrest and detention of Suderueman in February 2004, he was not listed as present when the alleged torture took place.  Clearly, the court decided to accept the police records – likely “inaccurate, and possibly fabricated” rather than the testimony of the victim.

Suderueman was one of the clients of disappeared human rights lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit (for earlier accounts on Somchai’s case see here and here).

The AHRC has “unreservedly condemns this ruling” against Suderueman. Its reasons for this repudiation are provided in the linked account. It states:

The impunity for torture and other gross abuses of human rights that these men enjoy is guaranteed not only by assurances that they will not be held responsible, but also that arrangements exist to enable them to exact revenge upon those persons who have the temerity to complain.

Further, the AHRC observes that:

the human rights priorities of the state in Thailand are made patently clear: not to investigate alleged abuses of human rights but to investigate, prosecute and imprison persons who allege such abuses….

This is a message that people in Thailand already know well. Consequently, the number of complainants of extrajudicial killing, enforced disappearance, torture and other gross abuses of human rights in Thailand remain few, not because the incidence of such abuses is low but because only the bravest persons, or those thrust into the spotlight like Suderueman, speak out. Most of those who do complain never complete the process of bringing a case to court, withdrawing under a combination of threats and offers of money to remain silent. Of those who do, some end up like Suderueman, prosecuted for their victimhood. Others end up in hiding, or dead.

The AHRC is obviously correct to conclude that the courts are complicit in establishing and maintaining the state of impunity. They correctly state that “all the courts of Thailand have to offer … is contempt for basic human rights.”



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