THAILAND: Call for observers--torture victim sued by Pol. Gen. Bhanupong Singhara for a complaint made in good faith
13 June 2012
On 18 and 25 June 2012, at 9:00-16:00, a trial will take place at the Criminal Court, Ratchdapisek Road (room to be determined on those dates). Mr. Sudi-Rueman was one of five alleged perpetrators in a gun robbery case (2004). Mr. Sudi Rueman filed a complaint to the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) under the Ministry of Justice alleging that he was tortured during detention. DSI transferred the case to the National Anti-corruption Commission (NACC) as the facts concerned state officials. On 29 July 2009, the police (Pol. Gen. Bhanupong Singhara) filed a complaint to the Criminal Court accusing Sudi-Rueman of reporting false information to the officials. On 28 September 2009, the Court of First Instance dismissed the case, stating that it was an exercise of basic rights and that there was no damage to the police. The Appeal Court reversed the decision of the Lower Court in Red Case No. 03303/2552 and ordered a retrial. Pol. Gen. Bhanupong and his witnesses are scheduled to testify on 18 and 25 June. This trial will determine whether or not Pol. Gen. Bhanupong Singhara has sufficient grounds to bring this criminal lawsuit to the court.
Mr. Sudi-Rueman is being sued for making a complaint about his torture by police officials in good faith. At stake in this decision is the fate of Mr. Sudi-Rueman Mah-Lae and whether the decision will encourage or discourage torture victims from making complaints against alleged officials in the future.
The Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF) urges all concerned persons to attend the court as trial observers. Participating in the trial observation would be a way to show solidarity for victims of torture for the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, which is celebrated on June 26, this year. Mr. Sudi-Rueman Mah-Lae will not be present because he is not yet been officially charged. The CrCF has a colleague attending who can serve as an interpreter.
On 4 January 2004, a gun robbery took place in the Narathiwat Rajanagarind (Pileng) Army Camp in Narathiwat. Mr. Sudi-Rueman Mah-Lae was one of five alleged offenders in this gun robbery. Mr. Sudi-Rueman Mah-Lae and the other alleged offenders filed a complaint with the DSI, accusing Pol. Gen. Bhanupong Singhara, Pol. Lt. Gen. Chakthip Chaijinda, and other officials of torturing them so that they would confess to the gun robbery charges. Altogether 19 officials were accused of torturing the five alleged offenders. The DSI referred the complaint to the NACC as the complaint was related to a criminal offence committed by state officials.
The abduction of lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit is related to this case. On the evening of March 12, 2004, one day prior to his abduction, Mr. Somchai helped the alleged offenders to make a letter of petition concerning the alleged torture. In addition, Mr. Abdullah Abukari, one of the five alleged offenders in the gun robbery who was under DSI's witness protection program, disappeared in Narathiwat in December 2009. His whereabouts are unknown and he may be dead.
Currently, Pol. Gen. Bhanupong Singhara and Pol. Lt. Gen. Chakthip Chaijinda hold very high positions within the police force as Deputy Commissioner-General and Commissioner of Metropolitan Police Bureau respectively.
Lower Court Decision
Pol. Gen. Bhanupong Singhara is suing Mr. Sudi-Rueman Mah-Lae for reporting false information to the inquiry officials of the DSI in relation to the torture complaint. The case was filed on 29 July 2009 as Black Case no. 02618/2552.
After a preliminary investigation, the Court dismissed the case on 28 September 2009. The case was dismissed because the Court claimed that the reporting of information to the DSI was an exercise of the basic rights of the citizen for criminal offences committed against the citizen. In addition, the Court found the case to be non-actionable.
The Court said that the case was non-actionable because the DSI had not at that point in time determined whether the allegations of torture could be substantiated. The case had been referred to the NACC. Until the NACC inquiry was complete, the court claimed that it could not determine whether the information reported by Mr. Sudi-Rueman Mah-Lae was false and might cause damage to the plaintiff. At the time the plaintiff, Pol. Gen. Bhanupong Singhara, had not suffered a suspension from office or any impact on his official duties by the actions of Mr. Sudi-Rueman Mah-Lae and therefore had not suffered harm.
NACC Inquiry Result
In December 2010, NACC dismissed the complaint regarding the police's alleged involvement in the torture of Mr. Sudi-Rueman Mah-Lae and others, claiming that no substantial evidence had been acquired to support the case.
The Appeal Court reversed the decision of the Lower Court in Red Case No. 03303/2552 and ordered a retrial. A pretrial hearing was scheduled for 23 January 2012. The preliminary hearing dates were fixed for the 2 and 23 of April. On 2 April, the plaintiff postponed the hearing to 23 April 2012 because he was busy investigating a robbery. The Court granted the request. On 23 April 2012 the first prosecution witness was examined but the trial is not yet finished. The new hearing dates have been set for the 18 and 25 of June 2012.
Significance of the Case
Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, Director of the CrCF, said that in the case of a complaint made in good faith regarding torture as per the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) to which Thailand has been a signatory since 2007 and in compliance with Section 62 of the 2007 Constitution, the complainant should be protected. This should encourage any complainant to come out and demand investigation and to bring to justice any perpetrators including government officials. This shall put an end to the culture of impunity. If the state fails to protect a victim of torture as a witness and complainant against alleged officials, the enforcement of CAT and the Constitution will not be possible and confession-driven-torture shall continue unabated.
The Thai government should accelerate efforts to fulfill its obligations to prevent torture by taking legislative measures to enact, amend laws and to take effective measures to criminalize offenses of torture. The passage of the draft Torture Prevention Bill proposed by the Human Rights Lawyers Association, Cross Cultural Foundation and Union for Civil Liberties would be beneficial to address problems with impunity and lack of meaningful remedy for torture victims. Under this bill, an appropriate penalty for torture is determined. Torture would be criminalized as a specific offense, as “torture by state officials” is not yet a criminal offence under Thai law. In addition, an independent and impartial mechanism for investigation into an alleged act of torture would be developed. At present, the perpetrators are not brought to justice and impunity continues because the offenders are often associated with the investigation body in ways that undermine the independence and impartiality of the investigation.
In addition to Black Case no. O2618/2552 and Red Case no. O3303/2552, there are other cases which are related to this matter.
1. Case Filed by Pol.Maj.Gen. Jakthip Chaijinda against Mr. Sudi-Rueman Mah-Lae
In Black Case no. O2161/2552, Pol.Maj.Gen. Jakthip Chaijinda sued Mr. Sudi-Rueman Mah-Lae for reporting false information to the DSI and NACC. The Court found Mr. Sudi-Rueman Mah-Lae guilty of violating Section 173 coupled with Section 174(2) and 187(2) of the Penal Code and ordered him imprisoned for two years as per Red Case No. 03140/2554 on 10 August, 2011. The CrCF has bailed him out and appealed the verdict. The appeal motion was submitted on 30 September 2011 and is pending at the Court of Appeal.
2. Complaint filed by Pol. Gen. Bhanupong Singhara and other police officials with the Crime Suppression Division against Mr. Sudi-Rueman Mah-Lae and other torture victims
Pol. Gen. Bhanupong Singhara and other police officials have filed a complaint with the Crime Suppression Division (CSD). On 19 May 2011, summonses no. 510/2552 requested that Mr. Sudi-Rueman Mah-Lae hear the case against him and testify for CSD’s inquiry on 10 June 2011. Seven other torture victims and their lawyers also received summonses and reported to CSD inquiry officials on 10 June. The torture victims (alleged offenders of providing false information) all plead not guilty. On 28 November 2011 after another meeting with the alleged offenders and reviewing evidence, CSD decided to file the case. The alleged offenders were required to report to the CSD twice on the 20 January and the 6 March 2012.
The public prosecutor accepted the case from the police. However, defence attorneys have been informed by the public prosecutors that after reviewing the inquiry reports, incriminating evidence, including written testimonies of the information alleged as false, was not included in the reports. The reports were sent back to the inquiry officials to acquire the missing documents. Thus, the public prosecutors postponed the date to meet with the alleged offenders indefinitely.
Contact person: Ms. Poonsuk Poonsukcharoen, Campaign against Torture Program Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 66-2-6934939 ext. 300