THAILAND: Call for new investigation into Somchai Neelaphaijit’s case 

Twelve years after the disappearance of Somchai Neelaphaijit, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) calls upon the Thai authorities to begin a new investigation into Somchai’s case, and to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

Somchai Neelaphaijit was a noted a lawyer and human rights defender in Thailand. At the time of his enforced disappearance, Somchai was representing five men who had alleged that they were tortured in custody by state security officials in the southern province of Narathiwat. On 12 March 2004, one day after he submitted the torture complaint to the court, five policemen pulled Somchai Neelaphaijit from his car on a main road in Bangkok. He was never seen again.

The Neelaphaijit family filed charges against five police officers, one of whom was also accused of torture by Somchai’s clients. During the 12 years of legal proceedings, the Neelaphaijit family lived in hope that the Supreme Court would serve them justice.

Unfortunately, on 29 December 2015, the Supreme Court acquitted all five defendants; no one has been held accountable for Somchai Neelaphaijit’s disappearance. The Court also ruled that the Neelapaijit family could not be co-plaintiffs in a criminal case, as there was no conclusive evidence that Somchai Neelaphaijit was dead.

The AHRC recognises that the adjudication of Somchai’s case reflects the culture of impunity in Thailand. Therefore, the AHRC urges the Department of Special Investigation to undertake an exhaustive and independent new investigation into Somchai’s case, as well as into other enforced disappearance cases. Thailand should also immediately ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and enact domestic legislation that makes enforced disappearance a specific crime. Not only is this a means to provide justice to disappearance victims and their families, but it is also fundamental in preventing the heinous crime of enforced disappearance.

For further information, please contact
Angkhana Neelaphaijit
The National Human Rights Commission of Thailand
+6684-728-0350 (Thai and English)

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