Thailand Ten years since disappearance Somchai Neelapaijit
On 12 March 2014 it was exactly 10 years ago that Thai human rights lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit disappeared.
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. There were serious suspicions concerning all suspects. 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 and children were not eligible to exercise their rights as an aggrieved party and, in that capacity, to uncover the truth of this matter. National and international human rights organizations concluded that the outcome was the result of an utter failure of the judicial apparatus.
L4L has been informed that in December 2013 the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) of the Thai Ministry of Justice announced that it intends to consult the Thai prosecutor to terminate the investigation into the case of the disappearance of Somchai. This announcement followed after an earlier statement from that same department that the file for the case of the disappearance of Somchai had been lost and – after several human rights organizations raised objections – soon after, had been found back.
Multiple organizations, among which the Asian Human Rights Commission (http://www.humanrights.asia/news/ahrc-news/AHRC-STM-011-2014), have called upon the Thai authorities to keep the investigation into the case of Somchai open until the truth about his disappearance has been established.
L4L shall soon set up a new letter writing campaign to remind the Thai authorities of their obligation to continue investigating the disappearance of Somchai Neelapaijit fully and objectively, and to keep drawing attention to his case.
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