Thailand presents draft anti-torture law

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The process of criminalising torture in Thailand has been on-going for several years. The Ministry of Justice has now presented a draft anti-torture bill, discussed at a public hearing on 12 January 2015. During its 2014 review by the UN Committee against Torture, Thailand also expressed its interest in ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT).

To move the OPCAT process forward, the APT and the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT) organised an advocacy meeting and a detention monitoring training in Bangkok on 17-19 December. In a peer-to-peer exchange, Human Rights Commissioner Jeehan Mahmood from the Maldives shared her experience of establishing a National Preventive Mechanism within a National Human Rights Commission. The two-day training was then attended by staff from both the NHRCT and officers from the Ministry of Justice, and aimed at developing basic skills for preventive detention monitoring.

The APT also met with various stakeholders regarding Thailand’s prolonged effort to criminalise torture. Our engagement with the Department of Rights and Liberties Protection, Ministry of Justice (DRLP), goes back to 2010. The APT has closely followed and provided inputs to the process of developing an anti-torture law. We have, among other things, commented on earlier drafts and raised concerns related to the definition of torture, acts and liability amounting to torture, victims’ right to redress and universal jurisdiction.

However, in 2014, the DRLP developed a stand-alone bill, combining the international obligations under the Convention against Torture and the Convention against Enforced Disappearances. The new bill was open to comments and feedback from government officials and NGOs during a public hearing on 12 January 2015. This draft is a positive development in the effort to strengthen the legal foundation for criminalisation of torture. It will hopefully soon be followed by the ratification of the OPCAT – and also help to uphold human rights and justice in the country.