Press briefing notes on Thailand and Yemen, 28 February 2017
Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Ravina Shamdasani
Date: 28 February 2017
We are disappointed by Thailand’s decision not to enact a draft anti-torture and anti-disappearance law, and we call on the Government to promptly reintroduce legislation to criminalise such deplorable acts. Despite the Government’s decision last May to enact the bill, we were informed last week that the National Legislative Assembly - the military-appointed parliament - has shelved the legislation which would have made enforced or involuntary disappearance and torture criminal offences.
Thailand’s Ministry of Justice has been working tirelessly on the bill for a number of years. The Assembly’s decision to reject the bill is very concerning given the continued allegations of torture and disappearances in Thailand, and it is deeply worrying that such actions may now continue without any legal redress. For too long, there has been no accountability on cases of torture and involuntary and enforced disappearances due to the lack of a legislative framework. As a result, perpetrators of such heinous crimes still cannot be prosecuted.
The decision not to enact the bill is also a devastating blow to the families of those who have disappeared. They have the right to know the truth regarding the disappearance of their kin, as well as any progress and the results of investigations.
Since 1980, the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances has recorded 82 cases of enforced disappearances in Thailand, including the disappearances of respected lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit in 2004 and Karen human rights activist Pholachi “Billy" Rakchongcharoen in 2014. The Department of Special Investigation recently suspended an inquiry into Somchai Neelapaijit’s disappearance due to the lack of a codified law on the crime. We are also concerned about the increasing number of criminal cases brought against human rights defenders in Thailand for reporting allegations of torture and ill-treatment.
Thailand’s human rights record will be reviewed on 13 and 14 March 2017 by the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva, which scrutinises States’ implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
We have received numerous reports of the recruitment of children in Yemen for use in the armed conflict, mostly by the Popular Committees affiliated with the Houthis. In all, between 26 March 2015 and 31 January 2017, the UN has managed to verify the recruitment of 1,476 children, all boys. However the numbers are likely to be much higher as most families are not willing to talk about the recruitment of their children, for fear of reprisals.
Just last week, we received new reports of children who were recruited without the knowledge of their families. Children under the age of 18 often join the fighting after either being misled or attracted by promises of financial rewards or social status. Many are then quickly sent to the front lines of the conflict or tasked with manning checkpoints.
We remind all parties to the conflict that the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict is strictly forbidden by international human rights law and international humanitarian law, and when concerning cases of recruitment of children under fifteen may amount to a war crime. We urge them to immediately release such children.
The conflict in Yemen has, between March 2015 and 23 February 2017, led to 4,667 civilian deaths and 8,180 injured civilians.
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