On 25 June 2012, at 9 am, the second of two pre-trial hearings in the case of Mr. Suderueman Maleh will take place at the Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Road in Bangkok (check at the court for the room number). Mr. Suderueman was one of five alleged perpetrators in a gun robbery case in 2004 whose complaint of being tortured while in custody was brought by Mr. Somchai Neelaphaijit shortly before he was disappeared. After significant delays and during a process which suggests a need for institutional reform, the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) cleared the police officers named in the complaint of being involved in torture. Despite being found not guilty of wrongdoing, some of the police officers named in the complaint have taken retaliatory action against Mr. Suderueman. During the last two years, a series of cases of allegedly providing false information to state officers have been brought against Mr. Suderueman by police officers named in the torture complaint. The first of these cases, brought by Police General Bhanupong Singhara, was thrown out by the Court of First Instance (Black Case no. 02618/2552), on the basis that filing the complaint was the exercise of a citizen’s basic rights. In late 2011, the Appeal Court (Red Case No. 03303/2552) reversed the decision of the Court of First Instance and ordered a retrial. This hearing, along with the hearing held on 18 June 2012, is a pre-trial hearing to determine whether or not Police General Bhanupong has sufficient grounds to bring a criminal case. The basic right of victims of torture to bring complaints against their torturers is at stake in this case. Mr. Suderueman’s alleged crime is to have sought to hold those responsible for his torture to account. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) urges all those concerned with accountability for torture and protecting the rights of victims to attend the hearing as observers. Thai-English interpretation will be available.
The AHRC wishes to share the following updated information, with thanks to the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF).
On 4 January 2004, a gun robbery took place in the Narathiwat Rajanagarind (Pileng) Army Camp in Narathiwat. Mr. Suderueman Maleh was one of five alleged offenders in this gun robbery. Mr. Suderueman and the other alleged offenders filed a complaint with Department for Special Investigation (DSI), accusing Police General Bhanupong Singhara, Police Lieutenant General Chakthip Chaijinda, and other officials of torturing them so that they would confess to the gun robbery charges. Altogether 19 officials were accused of torturing the five alleged offenders. The DSI referred the complaint to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) as the complaint was related to a criminal offence committed by state officials.
Mr. Suderueman and the other four men were the clients of Somchai Neelaphaijit, who was abducted and presumably disappeared by the police on 12 March 2004. They testified under oath in court on 28 March 2005 that they had been tortured. The manner of torture included electrocution, urination on the head and face, smacking on the base of the ears, and assault on the body. The victims' testimonies were consistent not only with one another but also with the accounts of other victims of torture in the south of Thailand. On the other hand, the testimonies of the police in the same trial consistently showed an aptitude for deceit and fabrication: an aptitude that at higher ranks was exceeded only by the display of arrogance of men who have committed crimes so many times for which they have escaped responsibility that they are supremely confident, and with good reason, that they will do the same again.
Lower Court Decision
Police General Bhanupong Singhara is suing Mr. Suderueman Maleh for reporting false information to the inquiry officials of the DSI in relation to the torture complaint. The case was filed on 29 July 2009 as Black Case no. 02618/2552.
After a preliminary investigation, the Court dismissed the case on 28 September 2009. The case was dismissed because the Court claimed that the reporting of information to DSI was an exercise of the basic rights of the citizen for criminal offences committed against a citizen. In addition, the Court found the case to be non-actionable.
The Court said that the case was non-actionable because the DSI had not at that point in time determined whether or not the allegations of torture could be substantiated. The case had been referred to the NACC. Until the NACC inquiry was complete, the court claimed that it could not determine whether the information reported by Mr. Suderueman Maleh was false and might cause damage to the plaintiff. At the time the plaintiff, Police General Bhanupong Singhara, had not suffered a suspension from his office or any impact on his official duties by the actions of Mr. Suderueman Maleh and therefore had not suffered harm.
NACC Inquiry Result
In December 2010, NACC dismissed the complaint regarding the police’s alleged involvement in the torture of Mr. Suderueman Maleh and others claiming that no substantial evidence had been acquired to support the case.
The Appeal Court reversed the decision of the Lower Court in Red Case no. 03303/2552 and ordered a retrial. A pretrial hearing was scheduled for 23 January 2012. The preliminary hearing dates were fixed for the 2 and 23 of April. On 2 April, the plaintiff postponed the hearing to 23 April 2012 because he was busy investigating a robbery. The Court granted the request. On 23 April 2012 the first prosecution witness was examined but the trial was not completed. New hearing dates of 18 and 25 June 2012 were set.
In addition to Black Case no. O2618/2552 and Red Case no. O3303/2552, there are other cases which are related to this matter.
1. Case Filed by Police Lieutenant General Chakthip Chaijinda against Mr. Suderueman Maleh
In Black Case no. O2161/2552, Police Lieutenant General Chakthip Chaijinda sued Mr. Suderueman Maleh for reporting false information to the DSI and NACC. The Court found Mr. Suderueman guilty of violating Section 173 coupled with Section 174(2) and 187(2) of the Criminal Code and ordered him imprisoned for two years as per Red Case no. O3140/2554 on 10 August 2011. Mr. Suderueman was granted bail and an appeal motion, submitted on 30 September 2011, is pending at the Court of Appeal.
2. Complaint filed by Police General Bhanupong Singhara and other police officials with the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) against Mr. Suderueman Maleh and other torture victims
Police General Bhanupong Singhara and other police officials have filed a complaint with the CSD. On 19 May 2011, summons no. 510 / 2552 requested that Mr. Suderueman hear the case against him and testify for CSD’s inquiry on 10 June 2011. Seven other torture victims and their lawyers also received summonses and reported to CSD inquiry officials on 10 June. The torture victims (alleged offenders of providing false information) all pled not guilty. On 28 November 2011 after another meeting with the alleged offenders and the review of evidence, the CSD decided to file the case. The alleged offenders were required to report to the CSD twice on 20 January and 6 March 2012.
The public prosecutor accepted the case from the police. However, defence attorneys have been informed by the public prosecutors that after reviewing the inquiry reports, alleged criminal evidence, including written testimonies of the information alleged to be false, was not included. The reports were then sent back to the inquiry officials to acquire the missing documents. Therefore, the public prosecutors postponed the date to meet with the alleged offenders indefinitely.