Renewing momentum for OPCAT ratification in Thailand

Friday, June 19, 2020

There have been ongoing discussions in Thailand about the importance of ratifying OPCAT over the past six years.

The Government pledged its commitment to ratify OPCAT as part of its 2014 review with the UN Committee against Torture and reaffirmed that commitment during the Universal Periodic Review in 2018.

The APT has provided ongoing advice and support to the Government of Thailand, along with civil society organisations, as develops a pathway for ratifying OPCAT

However, more needs to be done to build understanding, among government stakeholders and the community, about the benefits and implications of ratification.

To revive momentum for ratification, the APT and the Department of Rights and Liberties Protection, within Thailand’s Ministry of Justice, hosted a webinar on 19 June.

Around 40 members of the intergovernmental OPCAT committee – which includes representatives from different governmental ministries, law enforcement agencies and oversight bodies – took part in the discussions.

Participants reflected on the experience of ASEAN neighbour, the Philippines, as part of a presentation by Commissioner Leah Tanodra-Armamento from the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines.

Ms Barbara Bernath and Ms Shazeera Zawawi, representing the APT, facilitated the discussion.

In her welcoming comments, Ms Bernath said that Thailand had made important steps to prevent torture and ill-treatment since ratifying the United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT) in 2007.

“Article 2 of the UNCAT already contains an obligation to take all necessary measures to prevent torture and OPCAT ratification would be a way to implement this obligation,” Ms Bernath said.

The webinar concluded with renewed enthusiasm to revive OPCAT advocacy in Thailand, to complement other existing efforts to criminalise torture and ill-treatment, to enhance the implementation of safeguards during police custody and to strengthen detention oversight.

The APT also welcomed the recent announcement that Thailand’s Cabinet had approved draft legislation on the prevention of torture, an outcome the APT has advocated for some years.