Saturday, April 25, 2015

Thailand's Human Rights Commission Calls for Abolition of Death Penalty

“Abolish the death penalty, replacing it with life imprisonment”: Thailand’s Human Rights Commission scheduled for amalgamation with Ombudsman Office in draft of new constitution, responds with a call for abolition of the death penalty.
Bangkok Business News, 23rd April 2015 in Thai language
In a remarkable document issued by Thailand’s largely ineffective Human Rights Commission, the commission makes a firm and detailed plea for abolition of the death penalty in Thailand, action already promised in the current and previous national human rights plans. There follows a summary and translation of the news item:

Based on internationally recognized human rights, the Human Rights Commission (HRC) proposes abolition of the death penalty and its replacement by life imprisonment.
A news release by Government House revealed that during a cabinet meeting on 20th April the cabinet acknowledged a submission from the National Human Rights Commission regarding reform of the law on capital punishment and human rights. The Commission affirms that the punishment of wrong doing currently aims at behavioural correction of the wrongdoer by reform of mentality and behaviour which originated and led to crime from a defective knowledge and understanding. Such an approach has already led most countries throughout the world to abolish the death penalty and provide instead opportunity for the criminal to reform and again find a place in society. The death penalty is a violation of the right to life, despite a theory of criminology which considered the death penalty a protection for others and a deterrent against wrongdoing.
“HRC realizes that the death penalty does not lead to a decrease in crime. There is a growing conviction that the death penalty does not truly control crime, and so we propose to the Cabinet and concerned agencies a policy of law reform based on a respect for human rights.”
The law reform proposed suggests a revision of laws involving the death penalty as punishment for their violation, especially for crimes which did not directly intend the death of the victim or of other persons. Examples are articles 148, 149, 201,202,218,220, 222,313, and 314.

“It is also proposed that the Cabinet not legislate the death penalty as a punishment for newly drafted laws. As Thai society comes to understand and accept abolition, the death penalty should be totally abolished as is necessary for the protection of human life, the basis of all other rights.
HRC further recommends that the Cabinet discuss ratification of the second optional protocol to the Convention on Social and Political Rights in order to achieve total abolition by the year 2018, thus supporting and confirming the intention of government and its agencies to fulfil the 3rd national human rights plan. Only such a total abolition can establish the right to life as the basis of all human rights. In addition, the Cabinet should adopt a motion to vote in favour of a Universal Moratorium in UN General Assembly consultations on this issue. Such a vote is justified by the fact that no executions were carried out between the years 2004 to the present, with the exception of the execution in 2009 of two persons convicted on drug charges.
HRC quotes the policy of the Ministry of Justice and associated agencies to replace the death penalty with life imprisonment, by which is meant a prison sentence of not less than 25 to 30 years, this sentence being subject to a request for royal pardon. The Department of Corrections must therefore hasten to reform the prison system in preparation for this eventuality to meet the requirements of security and long term detention which does not abuse the human rights of prisoners.

The Ministry of Justice and other related agencies must also take on the responsibility of informing Thai society on capital punishment, the Corrections Department, the Department of Probation, the Department of Mental Health, the various Courts of Justice. Families and community groups must be encouraged to take responsibility for overseeing the behaviour of those who have been sentenced to imprisonment and released on probation, supporting government officials in the task of establishing reconciliation between offenders and victims, the responsibility of the wrong doers and the compensation of those who suffered both physical and mental harm. Meanwhile the Justice Ministry, the National Police Office, the Courts and their agencies must rapidly achieve an efficient justice system which handles cases without undue delay.

“The Cabinet acknowledged the submission of HRC and appointed the Ministry of Justice to take responsibility for content regarding policy and the recommendations on law reform. Discussions should be held with agencies concerned, such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry for Social Development and Security, the Ministry of Public Health, the Office of the Juridical Council, the Royal Thai Police Commission against Drugs, and the Attorney General’s Office. A report of discussions should be submitted to the Cabinet within 30 days of the receipt of this order.”

Comment: An important addition to the submission should be to urge government to formally declare a national moratorium on executions, as is customary in countries debating abolition. This measure allays the stress of those under sentence of death while discussion on their fate takes place.

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