12 years since disappearance Somchai Neelapaijit
14 March 2016

12 years since disappearance Somchai Neelapaijit


Twelve years after Thai human rights lawyer Somchai Neelaijipit went missing, there is still no prospect of justice. Somchai disappeared on 12 March 2004, one day after he had publicly accused the police of torturing his clients, who were in detention. Since then, nothing has been heard of him.

Shortly after the disappearance of Somchai, five police officers were arrested and prosecuted for their alleged involvement in the disappearance. Although there were severe suspicions against all five suspects, the court convicted one officer to a three year prison sentence in January 2006, but acquitted the other four. In March 2011, all police officers were acquitted by the Appeals Court.

Furthermore, on December 29, 2015, the Supreme Court also acquitted the five police officers. The court also ruled that Somchai’s family could not act as a co-plaintiff because there was no concrete evidence that Somchai was dead or otherwise incapable of bringing the case himself.

In September 2015, Lawyers for Lawyers submitted a report for the Universal Periodic Review of Thailand, which will take place in May. In the report, Lawyers for Lawyers highlighted the failure of Thailand to guarantee effective access to legal services provided by an independent legal profession as set out in the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers. Lawyers working on high-profile cases are often harassed or intimidated. When lawyers are the subject of crimes, harassment or other violations, the Thai authorities should make sure that these violations are effectively investigated. However, the case of Somchai Neelapaijit demonstrates that the Thai authorities have failed to address the impunity of crimes that human rights lawyers are subjected to.

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