Thailand Rejection of evidence in case Somchai Neelapaijit
On 21 May 2014, the Supreme Court of Thailand rejected the admission of crucial phone evidence in the case against five police officers accused of causing the involuntary disappearance of the Thai lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit to enforced disappearance in Bangkok on 12 March 2004. Several international organisations stated that this decision essentially shuts down this phase of the 10-year-old case.
Neelapaijit defended suspects of terrorism in the turbulent south of Thailand. He disappeared on 12 March 2004, shortly after having publicly accused the police of torturing his clients in prison. His car was found empty. Nothing has been heard of him since.
Shortly after Somchai’s disappearance, five police officers were arrested and prosecuted for their alleged involvement in the disappearance. On 8 and 29 April 2004, the Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for the five police officers for their alleged participation in robbing Somchai Neelapaijit and forcing him into a vehicle, charging the officers with coercion and gang-robbery. However, the judgment on appeal, on 11 March 2011, confirmed that the Thai authorities are as yet unable to answer the question of who was responsible for Somchai’s disappearance. The Court therefore acquitted all of the five suspects. It also ruled that Somchai’s wife, Angkhana Neelapaijit, and their children were not eligible to exercise their rights as an aggrieved party and, in that capacity, to uncover the truth of this matter. On 10 May 2011, Angkhana Neelapaijit appealed to the Supreme Court both the decision on her family’s standing and the substantive issues in the case, requesting it to consider further evidence.
L4L is concerned with this recent rejection of evidence, even more since the Thai Delegation gave assurances in a statement to the Convention Against Torture Committee in Geneva in April 2014, that the Department of Special Investigations (DSI) was continuing to investigate Somchai Neelapaijit’s case without any interference. L4L calls on the Thai authorities to promptly and effectively investigate the case of Somchai Neelapaijit and to bring the perpetrators to justice.
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