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THAILAND: Human Rights Lawyers Association calls to observe first trial at Songkhla Administrative Court on torture case for compensation on 26 October 2011

The Songkhla Administrative Court fixed 26 October 2011 at 11.00 am at Courtroom No. 2 for the first hearing on the Black Case no. 187,188/2552 in which Mr. Isma-ae Tay, the first plaintiff and Mr. Amizi Manak, the second plaintiff, sue the Royal Thai Army and Ministry of Defence for unlawful detention invoking the Martial Law Act. It is alleged that during the detention, the two plaintiffs and other persons being held in custody were subject to physical abuse and torture. They were forced to give information and confession. After the acquisition of sufficient evidence, the Presiding Judge shall deliver an initial statement. In the hearing, both the plaintiffs and the accused shall have the chance to deliver their oral statement either in verbal and/or written form to the Court. At the end of the first hearing, the Court shall fix the date to deliver the final verdict.

Background

The torture incidence took place in January 2008 when Mr. Isma-ae Tay, Mr. Amizi Manak and friends were detained by army officials invoking power under Martial Law. Both of them were university student in Yala at the time and were active in many human rights campaigns. On 4 February 2008, relatives of the victims noticed traces of physical abuse and have filed a habeas corpus case invoking Section 90 of the Criminal Procedure Code demanding release from unlawful detention. The Court then ordered the in charge military officials, under the charge of the two accused, to bring over the detainees to the Court on 5 February 2008 where they will have a chance to present the information, facts, reasons and legal argument to the Court to verify how lawful the detention under their charge had been and how physical abuse and torture had not taken place as alleged. But prior to the hearing, the military officials decided to release the two plaintiffs during nighttime and have failed to appear in the Court as per the court writ. As a result, the Court dismissed the case filed by the first plaintiff, et al, as the two plaintiffs had already been released and there was not matter left to adjudicate.

On 21 October 2011, legal representatives of the two plaintiffs have already submitted the plaintiffs’ oral statement prior to the first hearing ascertaining facts affirming that all evidence has been presented in the clear that military officials under the charge of the two accused have committed the offence including detention over the time limit permitted by law, and doctor’s certificate and medical record of the first plaintiff as well as photos of the wounds and other evidence to support the claim of torture. Meanwhile, the two accused have denied the charges, but have failed to provide sufficient evidence, particularly to counter the main allegation that the plaintiffs have been subject to physical abuse and torture in order that they give confession. It can only be construed that the two plaintiffs had been held in custody by the military officials under the charge of the Royal Thai Army and Ministry of Defence and have been inflicted with physical harm during the custody.

Apart from presenting the oral argument, permission has been sought to bring over eyewitnesses who have seen the physical wounds sustained by the two plaintiffs during the detention to testify to the Administrative Court. In addition, a set of images and VCDs prepared by the IN SOUTH to illustrate problems arising from the use of special laws shall be presented to the Court and permission has been sought to show the video during the hearing.

The case is the first of its kind in which victims of torture who have been detained invoking Martial Law in the Deep South of Thailand have exercised their right through the Court to hold concerned state agencies (Royal Thai Army and Ministry of Defence) accountable for the abuse of officials under their charge in the Deep South as per the Tortious Liability of Officials Act B.E. 2539 (1996). It took immense courage and strength of the two plaintiffs to decide to take on the case to demand justice and remedies from state agencies in charge of the military officials who had committed the offence. It is hoped that the exercise of judicial rights this time shall lead to improvement of the treatment of officials and the enforcement of special laws, which so far has caused much impact to local youth and people. This shall help to uphold rights and liberties of youth and people in the Deep South and the justice process shall be part of an effort to solve problems and restore peace in the Deep South. On 26 October 2011, the Court shall deliver its initial statement which shall shed light of the potential verdict.