UN expert calls on Thailand to repeal emergency rules that violate human rights

18 July 2006

Whether or not emergency regulations in southern Thailand due to lapse tomorrow are renewed, a United Nations human rights expert today called on the Thai Government to repeal provisions that protect soldiers and police from prosecution for killings so long as they are acting “reasonably and in good faith.”

Whether or not emergency regulations in southern Thailand due to lapse tomorrow are renewed, a United Nations human rights expert today called on the Thai Government to repeal provisions that protect soldiers and police from prosecution for killings so long as they are acting “reasonably and in good faith.”

“The emergency decree makes it possible for soldiers and police officers to get away with murder,” said Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, noting that under human rights law the use of lethal force is prohibited unless strictly necessary to protect life, regardless of an officer’s good faith or reasonableness.

“Thailand must abide by its commitment to follow human rights law,” he stressed, adding: “If the Government decides to renew the state of emergency today, it should nevertheless repeal those parts that violate human rights law.”

The state of emergency was declared one year ago, in July 2005, in response to years of unrest in areas that border Malaysia. In 1996 Thailand acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), making a legally binding commitment to only adopt measures that are consistent with its provisions, Mr. Alston said.

He noted that the Covenant permits some exceptions during states of emergency, but it includes a specific provision that bars any measures cutting back on the legal safeguards surrounding the right to life.

In addition, after the Emergency Regulations were established, the UN Human Rights Committee found it inconsistent with human rights law, but the Government nonetheless proceeded to extend the state of emergency in October 2005.

Mr. Alston said he then raised the issue in a letter to the Government on 15 November 2005, but he received no response, and the state of emergency was further extended in January and April 2006.

“Impunity for violence committed by the security forces has been an ongoing problem in Thailand, but the emergency decree has gone even further and makes impunity look like the official policy,” he said.

Mr. Alston and other special rapporteurs are independent, unpaid experts with a mandate from the UN Human Rights Council.

 

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