Letter to the Lawyers Council of Thailand on disbarment proceedings against Arnon Nampha
In a joint letter, Lawyers for Lawyers and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), expressed concerns about the disbarment proceedings against lawyer and human rights defender Mr. Arnon Nampha, and urged the Lawyers Council of Thailand to dismiss the complaint motion.
During a peaceful protest at the Democracy Monument on Ratchadamnoen Avenue on 3 August 2020, Mr. Arnon Nampha’s allegedly called for a reform of the monarchy. Subsequently, on the 7th of August 2020, a complaint was filed with the Lawyers Council of Thailand against Mr. Arnon Nampha by Mr. Aphiwat Khanthong, Assistant Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, who claimed to be acting in his capacity as private attorney. Mr. Aphiwat Khanthong alleged that Mr. Anon Nampha violated the Lawyers Council of Thailand’s disciplinary rules, as his behaviour would “incite, intend to cause unrest, distort information and insult on the monarchy”.
On the 19th of august, Mr. Nampha was arrested by the police for his participation in the protest. It has been reported that before the arrest on the 19th of August 2020, Mr. Nampha had been arrested several times in connection to his participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations. On the 11th of September, 2020, Lawyers for Lawyers expressed its concern about the harassment and arrests of Mr. Nampha.
In the joint letter of February 1, 2021, Lawyers for Lawyers and ICJ, disclosed concern that the disbarment proceedings will unduly interfere with Mr. Nampha’s work as a lawyer, including his representation of clients, and serve to impair the exercise of his human rights, including the right to freedom of expression.
The right to freedom of expression is protected in international human rights law, including by article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand is a State Party. The UNHRC has affirmed in its General Comment No. 34 that protections for freedom of expression and opinion should extend to political discourse, commentary on public affairs and discussion of human rights.
Moreover, the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers specify in Principle 23 “Freedom of expression and association” that “Lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly. In particular, they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights and to join or form local, national or international organizations and attend their meetings without suffering professional restrictions by reason of their lawful action or their membership in a lawful organization”.
Furthermore, on the 21st of August 2020, the Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA), the Union for Civil Liberties (UCL) and at least 264 Thai lawyers signed an open letter to the Lawyers Council of Thailand urging the dismissal of the motion against Mr. Nampha, because, inter alia, “none of the Regulation of the Lawyers Council on Conduct of Lawyers B.E. 2529 (1986) appears to support the reasons cited by Mr. Aphiwat Khanthong which may justify the debarment of Mr. Anon”.
Lawyers for Lawyers and the ICJ called on the Lawyers Council of Thailand to take into account and respect international law and internationally recognized principles on the role of lawyers and to dismiss the complaint motion against Mr. Arnon Nampha.
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