Judicial harassment

17 09 2014

PPT received the following urgent appeal from the AHRC. It refers to Pornpen Khongkachonkiet and Somchai Homlaor of the Cross Cultural Foundation. Somchai is well known as a former member of the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime’s Truth for Reconciliation Commission.

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-133-2014

17 September 2014

THAILAND: End judicial harassment of human rights defenders

ISSUES: Torture; human rights defenders; military; threats and intimidation; rule of law
———————————————————————

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has learned that the judicial harassment of Pornpen Khongkachonkiet and Somchai Homlaor, long-standing and prominent human rights defenders and director and chairperson, respectively, of the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF) in Thailand, is ongoing. They have been accused of defaming the army and face potential legal prosecution for their work documenting instances of torture and advocating on behalf of victims.

CASE NARRATIVE: As we described in an earlier statement (AHRC-STM-164-2014), on 24 August 2014, Pornpen Khongkachonkiet and Somchai Homlaor, long-time human rights defenders and director and chairperson, respectively, of the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF), received warrants summoning them to report to the Yala police by 25 August 2014. Initially, Pornpen and Somchai postponed their reporting to the Tatong police station in Raman district in Yala province until 10 am on 14 September. On 10 September, this was postponed indefinitely at the request of the police investigator. The warrants are in relation to an investigation carried out pursuant to a legal complaint of libel and defamation filed against them by Paramilitary Unit 41. The complaint accuses CrCF of causing damage to the reputation of the Army by disseminating an open letter about a case of torture carried out in southern Thailand.

CrCF was established in 2002 to work on justice and the protection, promotion and monitoring of human rights in Thailand. CrCF’s philosophy and activities are focused on strengthening human rights and delivering sustainable judicial reform throughout society, both top-down and bottom-up. CrCF has a long, well-respected track record of supporting marginalised people such as ethnic minority groups, stateless people, migrant workers and victims of conflict in their struggles for accountability in cases of torture, enforced disappearance, and other human rights violations. Since the declaration of martial law in southern Thailand in January 2004, CrCF has been at the forefront of documenting and calling for justice in cases of torture, enforced disappearance, extrajudicial killing, and other human rights violations. The work of the organization, and especially the work carried out by Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, is in the service of education citizens about their rights, recording rights violations, and pushing for accountability and redress. As part of this work, they routinely document cases and aid victims in filing both formal complaints and disseminating this information to the public via the media. In this case, the complaint was filed by Paramilitary Unit 41 after an open letter which detailed a case of torture of a young man in Yala circulated in public (Some of the details of the open letter were published online by Isra News Agency here). The Army has claimed that the young man was not tortured, and so therefore the open letter constitutes libel and defamation. In response, on 8th May 2014, the ISOC, the Royal Thai Police, and others – including doctors, examined the victim of the alleged assault, and produced a press release stating that an investigation had been carried out which had found that the allegation of assault was untrue. The press release went on to say that CRCF should be held responsible for intentionally distorting the truth and spreading false statements to the public.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

The judicial harassment of Pornpen Khongkachonkiet is part of a broader pattern of harassment and legal proceedings carried out against those who expose torture, call for accountability and defend human rights in Thailand. The Government of Thailand acceded to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Degrading or Inhuman Treatment (CAT) on 2 October 2007. As a state party to the CAT, Thailand is obligated to take action to prevent torture, hold perpetrators to account, and provide redress and protection to victims of torture. The AHRC has noted that this is not always the case, such as in the criminal prosecution of Suderueman Maleh, a survivor of torture in southern Thailand, who was sentenced to two years in prison in 2011 after he brought a torture complaint against a police officer who was later cleared of responsibility (AHRC-STM-103-2011). Similarly, when Kritsuda Khunasen, who was arbitrarily detained for nearly a month following the 22 May 2014 coup by the National Council for Peace and Order, released two video interviews detailed her torture and abuse while in military custody, the junta’s response was to threaten and discredit her (AHRC-STM-151-2014). The appropriate response in all of these cases would be for the military and government to initiate independent investigations into torture.

SUGGESTED ACTION: Please write letters to the authorities below, asking them to immediately cease the judicial harassment and end any ongoing investigation of Pornpen Khongkachonkiet and Somchai Homlaor for their work defending human rights.

Please note that the Asian Human Rights Commission is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights seeking his urgent intervention into this matter.


Actions

Information