Saturday, October 11, 2014

Thailanad's 3rd National Human Rights Plan: 2014 to 2018

Relating to Death Penalty
Submission to parliamentary discussion that the death penalty be replaced by life imprisonment to achieve legal conformity of state law relating to human rights with international human rights standards, in the following steps:
1.1   Make known the relevant principles of human rights to those involved in the process of justice, and to the people, especially relating to human freedom and the right to life the basis of all other rights.
1.2   To attempt the immediate establishment of an official moratorium on the death penalty and thereby support the moratorium proclaimed by the UN General Assembly, with the aim of changing the death penalty by the end of year 2014.
1.3   Submit that changes be made, by 2017, to the criminal law code reducing the number of crimes subject to the death penalty, especially in eliminating crimes which do not rate as “most serious  crimes” referred to in Article 6 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, for example the crime of arson (currently Thai law makes liable to the death penalty 55 crimes)
1.4   Sign, with a commitment to ratification, the second optional protocol of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, with the prospect of eliminating the death penalty by 2018
1.5   Construct high security prisons  to accommodate prisoners guilty of serious crimes

      Well and good, there is advance on the policy outlined in the earlier Human Rights Plans. But ten years have already passed since abolition was first officially mooted. There is little hope of the policy proposed being accepted by our military controlled government which has no understanding of human rights principles and whose very existence is antithetical to human rights.
      Moreover, the sting is in the final proposal, 1.5. What is the nature of 'life imprisonment' being proposed? 1.5 indicates that life imprisonment until death is intended. Such a sentence is counter to every consideration of imprisonment from a human rights perspective, and has been dubbed the "other death penalty". Uniquely in the US is Life Imprisonment Without Parole (LWOP) imposed. The aim of imprisonment is primarily rehabilitation of the condemned. Abandonment of this hope renders imprisonment as cruel and inhumane as the death penalty itself, and arguably even worse. It is a meaningless and unjustifiable punitive sentence. In Thailand it is particularly objectionable. Our prison system is among the most overcrowded in the world; for women it is the most overcrowded. The ensuing conditions of imprisonment are completely unacceptable. Either the number of prisoners must be, at least, halved, or any budget available be devoted to making present prisons conform to UN  standards. If budget is allotted to building high security prisons, the situation in our existing prisons will deteriorate to an impossible degree. One can predict too that, as has happened in the US, more and more prisoners will be dispatched to high security prisons. The existence of more severe prison conditions will call for their use for even minor crimes in vindictive campaigns for increased deterrence which is never realised.

Friday, October 10, 2014

10th October: World Abolition Day

                Where is Thailand going on the death penalty?
                      Bangkok Post, 10th October
To give a straight answer to a straight question, Thailand is shuffling around rather than going anywhere on the death penalty. There has been movement, the movement of holding meetings and asking opinions. There has been progress, in recognizing the cogency of the world movement for abolition and realizing that Thailand cannot just appeal to its particularity, claiming that crime in our country is so prevalent and vicious that only the death penalty can restrain it.
A recent booklet issued by the Department for the Defence of Rights and Liberties of the Ministry of Justice, lists the incontrovertible case, based on human rights principles, for abolition of capital punishment. The right to life declared unequivocally in Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is now accepted as applicable to Thailand. This is a big advance on earlier years where it was quibbled that the Universal Declaration was not in fact obligatory, that the International Covenant allowed capital punishment in the interim, and that the Covenant would have to be incorporated into Thai law before it would become obligatory. The response of Thailand to its responsibilities now lies in a detailed response to the question posed above.
As the saying goes ‘there is an elephant in the room’ namely a major obstacle to abolition, the elephant of public opinion. While individual politicians may pander to public opinion and political parties introduce populist policies to win approval, the polity of Thailand shows little true regard for real public opinion. It is well known that Thais are massively in favour of capital punishment and opposed to its abolition. Strangely, they appear completely unaware that in practice, Thailand no longer executes people. True, people are regularly condemned to death, at the rate of about one death sentence a week, but that is the end of it. In the past ten years only two people have been executed, an event which the Prime Minister of the day, in answer to an enquiry by the Thai ambassador to the UN office in Geneva, ascribed to a mistake.  Condemned prisoners evade the injection of poisons by commutation of sentence so that the number condemned to death oscillates permanently around a total of 610.
The Department of Rights and Liberties has devoted all its efforts to consulting audiences invited to meetings on their attitude to abolition. I attended one such meeting where over a hundred persons gave their opinion. The selection of persons appeared to consist mainly of government officials or their contacts and was hardly a random sample. But they were strongly adamant in their views, capital punishment was necessary, the crimes subject to capital punishment should not be reduced, and the death penalty should not be replaced by life imprisonment. There follow the statistics of replies from five such meetings throughout the country:
“Mahidol University lecturer, Srisombat Chokprajakchat, spoke at a seminar on the death penalty organized by the Justice Ministry’s Rights and Liberties Protection Department on 8th August. She said that 41.4% of people questioned in an opinion poll, conducted in four regions across the country, believed capital punishment should be maintained while 7.8% held it should be abandoned. The rest of 1073 respondents were undecided. The poll was conducted by the university in conjunction with the government department. It was noted, however, that fewer people supported the death penalty after learning more about it she said. The university also conducted an online survey. It revealed that of the
1, 301 respondents, who knew little about the death penalty, 73% supported it, while 4% wanted it abolished” Bangkok Post -  9 August 2014
Polls of this kind reveal the expected, and repeat the experience of countries across the world, most of whom went on to abolish the death penalty against the opinion of uninformed populations. These populations later proved that the best argument against the death penalty is its abolition. As people realize that the sky does not fall on them, and crime does not run out of control under abolition, they come to appreciate the increased respect for human life that ensues.
Not reported in the article quoted was the option of replacing the death penalty by life imprisonment without parole (LWOP). Imported from the US, this malign punishment leads to a need for new maximum security prisons. Such prisons are unmanageable and lead to handing them over to commercial companies who lack responsibility to the citizens subject to meaningless imprisonment without hope in these black holes of human society. LWOP was meant to replace a sentence of death, and is in fact a sentence of death in another form to capital punishment by gallows, electric chair, gas chamber, or lethal injection. LWOP is a sentence of waiting for death by illness or old age; it mandates no escape from a prison cell other than as a corpse.
Life imprisonment without parole makes meaningless the ideal of imprisonment as a punishment leading to the reform and rehabilitation of prisoners. In the words of one LWOP prisoner, “Most of my fellow prisoners never receive a single visit, not from their families or friends. Instead they live in a tortured twilight world between life and death. And this fate is not reserved for a few super-criminals, mass murderers, of drug kingpins; it’s the sentence of more than 50,000 men, women, and children. It is unprecedented too, in the long course of human history, as nowhere in the past, and nowhere now in the present, in any other country in the world, were or are people sentenced to the rest of their lives in prison.”
There is a real danger that Thailand will slip into the adoption of this appalling and meaningless punishment, proposed by an irresponsible political non-leadership, to appease uninformed and unconscious public opinion.
Danthong Breen, Director of Death Penalty Project, Union for Civil Liberty (UCL)

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Action, Not Words, Needed to Abolish the Death Penalty

สหพันธ์สิทธิมนุษยชนสากล –FIDH
สมาคมสิทธิเสรีภาพของประชาชน (สสส.)

ประเทศไทย: ต้องปฏิบัติ ไม่ใช่แค่พูด เพื่อยกเลิกโทษประหารชีวิต

            กรุงเทพฯ ปารีส 9 ตุลาคม 2557: รัฐบาลไทยต้องไม่ใช่แค่พูด แต่ต้องทำตามขั้นตอนอย่างรวดเร็วเพื่อยกเลิกโทษประหาร FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights) และองค์กรสมาชิกอย่างสมาคมสิทธิเสรีภาพของประชาชน (สสส.) กล่าวหนึ่งวันก่อนวันต่อต้านโทษประหารโลกครั้งที่ 12 (10 ตุลาคม 2557)
            ในวันที่ 22 กรกฎาคม 2557 ในจดหมายถึงประธานสมัชชาใหญ่สหประชาชาติ ซึ่งจะพิจารณาการสมัครเข้าดำรงตำแหน่งสมาชิกของประเทศไทยในคณะมนตีสิทธิมนุษยชนแห่งสหประชาชาติ สำหรับวาระ 2558-2560 ตัวแทนประเทศไทยสัญญาที่จะ ศึกษาความเป็นไปได้ ที่จะยกเลิกโทษประหาร[1] ในแผนแม่บทสิทธิมนุษยชนแห่งชาติได้กำหนดถึงความเป็นไปได้ที่จะยกเลิกโทษประหารเช่นกัน[2]
          ประเทศไทยจะต้องเร่งเปลี่ยนการแสดงพันธกิจที่จะยกเลิกโทษประหาร ให้เป็นมาตรการอย่างเป็นรูปธรรม รวมทั้งการให้สัตยาบันรับรองกฎบัตรระหว่างประเทศที่เกี่ยวข้อง และการบัญญัติกฎหมายในประเทศ ซึ่งจะทำให้การสังหารชีวิตด้วยคำสั่งของรัฐกลายเป็นเรื่องในอดีตไป คาริม ลาฮิดจี (Karim Lahidji) ประธานของ FIDH กล่าว  
            การเปลี่ยนแปลงด้านการเมืองและสังคมในประเทศเมื่อเร็ว ๆ นี้ ทำให้เกิดเงื่อนไขที่บั่นทอนความพยายามยกเลิกโทษประหาร เดิมคาดว่าจะมีการเสนอแผนแม่บทสิทธิมนุษยชนแห่งชาติเข้าที่ประชุมคณะรัฐมนตรีเมื่อต้นปีนี้ แต่ในปัจจุบันไม่เป็นที่ชัดเจนว่ากระบวนการดังกล่าวอยู่ในขั้นตอนใดภายหลังการทำรัฐประหารของทหารเมื่อวันที่ 22 พฤษภาคม
            นอกจากนั้น แทนที่จะเสนอให้ลดจำนวนฐานความผิดที่มีโทษประหาร ผู้กำหนดนโยบาย นักการเมืองและนักกิจกรรมกลับหันมาสนับสนุนการออกกฎหมายเพื่อเพิ่มประเภทความผิดที่มีโทษประหารมากขึ้น
            ในวันที่ 19 กันยายน มีรายงานข่าวว่า ทางคณะรักษาความสงบแห่งชาติ (คสช.) ซึ่งเป็นรัฐบาลทหารเสนอร่างพระราชบัญญัติกำหนดโทษประหารสำหรับผู้ที่ถูกตัดสินว่ามีความผิดฐานปิดสนามบิน หรือสร้างความเสียหายต่ออาคารสถานที่ในสนามบินหรือเครื่องบินในท่าอากาศยาน กฎหมายดังกล่าวได้ผ่านการพิจารณาวาระแรกของสภานิติบัญญัติแห่งชาติ (สนช.) ที่แต่งตั้งโดยทหารไปแล้ว
            ในวันที่ 14 กรกฎาคม มีรายงานข่าวว่านายบุญจง วงศ์ไตรรัตน์ อดีตรัฐมนตรีช่วยว่าการกระทรวงมหาดไทย  และสส.พรรคภูมิใจไทย เสนอให้แก้ไขเพิ่มเติมกฎหมายปัจจุบันเพื่อกำหนดโทษประหารสำหรับความผิดฐานซื้อเสียง
            หลังเหตุการณ์ข่มขืนฆ่าเด็กผู้หญิงอายุ 13 ปีบนขบวนรถไฟที่เข้าสู่กรุงเทพฯ เมื่อวันที่ 6 กรกฎาคม นักกิจกรรมและบุคคลสำคัญทางสังคมร่วมกันรณรงค์เรียกร้องให้ลงโทษประหารกับผู้ข่มขืน
            การใช้อารมณ์เพื่อตอบโต้กับการเปลี่ยนแปลงทางการเมืองหรืออาชญากรรมร้ายแรง เป็นอุปสรรคสำคัญของเส้นทางการยกเลิกโทษประหารในประเทศไทย นายแดนทอง บรีน (Danthong Breen) ที่ปรึกษาอาวุโสของสสส.กล่าว ผู้กำหนดนโยบายต้องไม่ใช้โทษประหารเป็นทางออก การแก้แค้นไม่ทำให้เกิดประโยชน์ ไม่ช่วยในการป้องปราม และยังส่งเสริมวัฒนธรรมความรุนแรง
            FIDH และสสส.กระตุ้นให้รัฐบาลไทยประกาศข้อตกลงชั่วคราวอย่างเป็นทางการเพื่อยุติการใช้โทษประหาร และให้ลงนามและให้สัตยาบันต่อพิธีสารเลือกรับฉบับที่ 2 ของกติการะหว่างประเทศว่าด้วยสิทธิพลเมืองและสิทธิทางการเมือง (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) โดยมีเป้าหมายเพื่อยกเลิกโทษประหาร และให้ออกเสียงยอมรับมติซึ่งเรียกร้องให้มีข้อตกลงชั่วคราวระดับโลกเพื่อยุติการประหารชีวิตในที่ประชุมสมัชชาใหญ่สมัยที่ 69 ในเดือนธันวาคม
            จนถึงวันที่ 31 สิงหาคม มีนักโทษในแดนประหารของไทยอยู่ 623 คน (ชาย 572 คนและหญิง 51 คน) 40% ของผู้ชายและ 82% ของผู้หญิงที่ต้องโทษประหาร เกิดจากความผิดด้านยาเสพติด
            ประเทศไทยไม่มีการประหารชีวิตบุคคลนับตั้งแต่วันที่ 24 สิงหาคม 2552 ซึ่งมีการประหารชีวิตนายบัณฑิต เจริญวานิช อายุ 45 ปี และนายจิรวัฒน์ พุ่มพฤกษ์ อายุ 52 ปี ด้วยการฉีดยา โดยมีการแจ้งล่วงหน้าเพียงหนึ่งชั่วโมงที่เรือนจำบางขวาง ตอนเหนือของกรุงเทพฯ ทั้งคู่ถูกศาลตัดสินลงโทษในข้อหาค้ายาเสพติดเมื่อวันที่ 29 มีนาคม 2544
            FIDH เป็นสมาชิกของพันธมิตรโลกเพื่อต่อต้านโทษประหาร (World Coalition Against the Death Penalty)

[1] ที่ประชุมสมัชชาใหญ่สหประชาชาติ (UNGA) สมัยประชุมที่ 69 วันที่ 22 กรกฎาคม 2557 เป็นถ้อยแถลงของผู้แทนถาวรประเทศไทยประจำองค์การสหประชาชาติที่มีต่อประธานสมัชชาใหญ่, UN Doc. A/69/175
[2] การกล่าวเปิดของพันตำรวจเอก ดร. ณรัชต์ เศวตนันทน์ อธิบดีกรมคุ้มครองสิทธิและเสรีภาพ กระทรวงยุติธรรม หัวหน้าคณะผู้แทนไทยที่เข้าร่วมประชุมสมัชที่ 52 ของคณะกรรมการต่อต้านการทรมาน 30 เมษายน 2557 
Joint Press Release by International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Union for Civil Liberty (UCL)
Paris, Bangkok, 9 October 2014: Thailand must go beyond words and take rapid and tangible steps to abolish the death penalty, FIDH and its member organization Union for Civil Liberty (UCL) said one day before the 12th World Day Against the Death Penalty (10 October 2014).
On 22 July 2014, in a letter to the UN General Assembly’s President which contained Thailand’s candidature for a seat at the UN Human Rights Council for the 2015-2017 term, Thailand pledged to “study the possibility” of abolishing capital punishment.[1] Thailand’s third National Human Rights Plan also mentioned the possibility of abolishing the death penalty.[2]
“Thailand must quickly turn its tepid commitment to consider the abolition of the death penalty into concrete action. This includes the ratification of relevant international instruments and the adoption of necessary domestic laws that will finally make state-sanctioned killing an aberration of the past,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji.
Recent political and social developments in the country have created conditions that risk undermining efforts to abolish capital punishment. The National Human Rights Plan was expected to be submitted to the Cabinet earlier this year. However, its status remains unclear following the 22 May military coup.
In addition, instead of proposing the reduction of the number of offenses that are punishable by death, decision-makers, politicians, and activists have recently supported the introduction of new capital crimes.
On 19 September, it was reported that Thailand’s military junta, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), proposed a bill that prescribed the death penalty for those found guilty of causing the closure of an airport or damaging airport facilities or aircraft at an airport. The proposed legislation has already passed its first reading in the junta-backed National Legislative Assembly (NLA).
On 14 July, it was reported that former Home Affairs Deputy Minister and Phum Jai Thai Party MP Boonchong Wongtrasirat proposed the amendment of existing laws in order to make the buying and selling of votes and offence that is punishable by death.
Following the rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl on a Bangkok-train on 6 July, activists and key public figures launched a campaign that called for the death penalty for convicted rapists.
“Emotional responses to political developments or horrendous crimes are major setbacks on the path to the abolition of death penalty in Thailand,” said UCL Senior Advisor Danthong Breen. “Decision-makers must reject capital punishment as a solution. Vengeance achieves nothing, fails as a deterrent, and exacerbates the culture of violence.”
FIDH and UCL urge Thailand to announce an official moratorium on capital punishment, to sign and ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, and to vote in favor of a resolution calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions at the 69th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in December.
As of 31 August, there were 623 prisoners (572 men and 51 women) under death sentence in Thailand. Forty percent of the men and 82% percent of the women were sentenced to death for drug-related offenses.
Thailand has not executed anyone since 24 August 2009, when two men, Bundit Jaroenwanit, 45, and Jirawat Poompreuk, 52, were put to death by lethal injection with just one-hour notice at Bang Khwang Prison, located just north of Bangkok. The two had been convicted of drug trafficking on 29 March 2001.
FIDH is a member of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty.

[1] UNGA, 69th session, Letter dated 22 July 2014 from the Permanent Representative of Thailand to the United Nations addressed to the President of the General Assembly, UN Doc. A/69/175
[2] Opening Statement by Pol. Col. Naras Savestanan, Director General, Department of Rights and Liberties Protection, Ministry of Justice, Head of Thai Delegation 52nd session of the Committee Against Torture, 30 April 2014

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Setback for abolition in Thailand

Horrendous events such as reported below are setting back the approach to abolition in Thailand. We must admit that we are at the ultimate boundaries of decision. We must persist in rejecting execution as a solution. Vengeance achieves nothing, fails as a deterrent, and exacerbates the culture of violence. Which is not to deny in any way the horror of the crime. 

Train rapist sentenced to death
  Published: 30/09/2014 at 01:53 PM
   PRACHUAP KHIRI KHAN - The Hua Hin provincial court has sentenced a railway employee to death for murder and aggravated rape of a young girl in July on a train heading to Bangkok whose body was later found beside the railway track.
The court on Tuesday found Wanchai Sangkhao, the first defendant in the case, guilty of several counts.
He was sentenced to death for murder, nine years in jail for raping a girl under 15, five years in prison for stealing while on public tranport vehicles at night, one year for hiding a body and six months for drug abuse.
The gravest penalty of death prevails.
The court rejected Wanchai's claim for mercy because he had confessed in an act of repentance. The court said Wanchai confessed because he had no choice as the evidence against him was so strong. There were no grounds for commutation of sentence.
Nattakorn Chamnarn, 19, the second defendant who was charged with helping another person rape a girl under 15, confessed during the investigation, but denied the charge in court.
Nattakorn was sentenced to six years in prison as an accessory. Since he confessed during the investigation stage, the penalty was commuted by a third to four years.
Wanchai, 22, a sleeper-car employee of the Railway of Thailand, confessed to raping on July 5 a 13-year-old girl, a Mathayom 2 student at Satrinonthaburi School, while she was asleep in a bunk of a carriage on the No.174 Nakhon Si Thammarat-Bangkok express train.
Wanchai subsequently threw her out the window, even though she was still breathing. She was killed by the fall. Searchers later found her body beside the rail track.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Abolition of death penalty in Chad

It is with great good wishes that we welcome abolition of the death penalty in another Muslim country. We who work for abolition of the death penalty in Thailand are united with our Muslim brothers. Most death penalty sentences in Thailand are now imposed in the Southern Border Provinces, Muslim provinces, of Thailand. We join with them in opposing an unjust legal system which follows faulty legal procedures to impose death sentences. We welcome news that a Muslim country abolishes this ultimate denial of the most basic of all human rights.

Chad: The draft Penal Code abolishes capital punishment but severely condemns homosexuality

Ndjamena, Paris, New York, Nairobi, 16 September 2014 – The new draft Penal code adopted by the Council of Ministers on 4, September 2014, provides for the abolition of the capital punishment in Chad in conformity with the repeated requests made by the civil society for several years, and constitutes an important step forward in the respect of the right to life, right to fair trial and the interdiction of torture and, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. Chad had adopted a moratorium on executions since 1991, before nine executions took place on 8 and 9 November 2003. Since then, the Chadian authorities have not executed any convicts.
«  The abolition of the death penalty in Chad is a major step for the country and for Africa, however it is totally unacceptable that the same draft Penal Code heavily criminalizes homosexuality  » declared Sheila Mwenga Nabachua, FIDH Vice President.
The draft Penal code adopted on 4, September 2014 by the government also provides for the strengthening of sentences against people charged for homosexuality. The offence becomes a crime punishable by 15 to 20 years of prison and a fine of 50 000 to 500 000 FCFA according to the new article 361 bis of the Chadian draft Penal code.
«  Criminalizing homosexuality is discriminatory and demagogic, when Chad really needs social justice, democracy and development. Stigmatizing a group will not help build a tolerant and fair society  » declared Honorary LTDH President Dobian Assingar.
« The head of state and the National Assembly must ensure equality of all citizens before the law whatever their religion, their origin, their opinion or sexual orientation. The National Assembly must hence modify article 361 bis of the draft Penal code, and the President must not enact a draft Penal code with such a provision. The abolition of the death penalty is great news which must not be tarnished by the criminalization of homosexuality » added Drissa Traoré, FIDH Vice President