THAILAND: UN must demand lifting of Emergency Decree 

Sihasak Phuangketkeow
President, UN Human Rights Council
c/o Permanent Mission of Thailand
5 Rue Gustave-Moynier
1202 Geneva

Fax: +41 22 715-1000, 715-1002
Tel: +41 22 715-1010

Dear Mr. Sihasak

THAILAND: UN must demand lifting of Emergency Decree

The Asian Human Rights Commission is writing to you in your capacity as the newly-chosen President of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

You will be aware that the state of emergency that is currently in effect across 24 out of Thailand’s 76 provinces, in accordance with Emergency Decree BE 2548 (2005)–in addition to the three southernmost provinces where a state of emergency has been in force for the last five years–is due to expire on 7 July 2010. Although the prime minister of Thailand has indicated that it will probably not be renewed in some provinces, he has not yet indicated that it will be completely withdrawn.

According to an article in the Bangkok Post newspaper of June 29, you are quoted as saying that “the situation is settled” in Bangkok. If this is your view, then you will agree that it is unnecessary for the emergency decree to remain in effect, and furthermore, that to keep it in effect would violate Thailand’s obligations under international law. Specifically, article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Thailand is a party, stipulates that the measures under a state of emergency should be limited to an “extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation”. As the exigencies no longer necessitate the imposition of emergency, it ought to be lifted at once.

In this regard, we also remind you of the findings of the UN Human Rights Committee, which as you are aware monitors state parties’ compliance with the Covenant, concerning states of emergency in Thailand:

“The Committee is concerned that the Emergency Decree on Government Administration in States of Emergency… does not explicitly specify, or place sufficient limits, on the derogations from the rights protected by the Covenant that may be made in emergencies and does not guarantee full implementation of article 4 of the Covenant. It is especially concerned that the Decree provides for officials enforcing the state of emergency to be exempt from legal and disciplinary actions, thus exacerbating the problem of impunity. Detention without external safeguards beyond 48 hours should be prohibited (art. 4). The State party should ensure that all the requirements of article 4 of the Covenant are complied with in its law and practice, including the prohibition of derogation from the rights listed in its paragraph 2…” (CCPR/CO/84/THA, 2005, para. 13)

As there has been no amendment to the contents of the decree or its management in the period since the Committee gave its opinions, its imposition in its current form is also possibly a violation of Thailand’s obligations under international law.

Accordingly, the Asian Human Rights Commission looks forward to your prompt intervention and public call for the state of emergency to be lifted, in your capacity as President of the Human Rights Council.

Furthermore, we call upon you to make explicit statements for the release of all persons who have been detained under the Emergency Decree who have not been charged with criminal offences, and for the guarantee of full legal rights to others who have been detained, including for access to attorneys and relatives, to have charges heard in open court; and, to be released on bail pending the outcomes of cases or where courts have ample grounds to order continued detention, for detention in official facilities, free from torture or cruel or inhuman treatment, and accessible to independent agencies to monitor and record the conditions of detention, among them the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Yours sincerely

Basil Fernando
Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong

1. Homayoun Alizadeh, Regional Representative, OHCHR, Bangkok, Thailand
2. El Hadji Malick Sow, Chairperson-Rapporteur, UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
3. Manfred Nowak, UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

Document Type : Open Letter
Document ID : AHRC-OLT-007-2010
Countries : Thailand,
Campaigns : Thailand State of Emergency 2010
Issues : Democracy,