UN rights office urges probe of alleged torture of ‘Red Shirt’ activist

5 August 2014

The United Nations human rights office today called for an independent investigation into the alleged torture of Kritsuda Khunasen, a Thai student activist who was working for a key member of the “Red Shirts” group when she was detained and held in custody for nearly a month.

“We have been very concerned by the methods of arrest and detention of politicians, activists, academics and journalists following the military coup in Thailand in May this year,” Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), told journalists in Geneva.

Ms. Khunasen is among the more than 700 people summoned and arrested since 22 May 2014 by the National Peace and Order Maintaining Council (NPOMC) – the body that seized power from the caretaker government. The so-called “Red Shirts” support the ousted Government.

While most of the detainees were released within a week in accordance with martial law, an unverified number of people were detained for more than seven days without access to lawyers and their families, according to OHCHR.

The UN office has been concerned about possible human rights abuses, including torture and ill-treatment, as a result of people being held incommunicado, Ms. Shamsadani said.

Ms. Khunasen has told media and human rights that she was held in military custody from 28 May to 24 June. During that time, she claims to have been blindfolded for 7 days, beaten several times and lost consciousness after a plastic bag was placed over her head.

“Thai authorities should immediately conduct an independent and detailed investigation,” Ms. Shamsadani said on behalf of OHCHR, “and – if verified – bring the perpetrators to justice.”

She underscored that under international law and under UN policy, amnesties are impermissible if they prevent prosecution of individuals who may be criminally responsible for gross violations of human rights, including torture.

The UN office has raised Ms. Khunasen’s case with Thai authorities, including on 11 June and against on 16 July. Thus far, no substantive feedback from the authorities has been received on these concerns.

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