Ravina Shamdasani, the spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, issued a statement today (18 December) raising concerns over the Thai authorities charging protesters with charges under Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code, Thailand's lèse majesté law.
A group of activists holding a banner in front of the UN building in Bangkok when they went to file a petition calling for the UN to pressure the Thai government for the repeal of Section 112 on 10 December.
At least 35 people involved with recent protests are now facing charges under this law, including a 16-year-old student activist.
The statement also raised concerns over the authorities' use of other criminal charges against protesters, including sedition charges and charges under the Computer Crimes Act, and called on the Thai government to stop the repeated use of such serious criminal charges against individuals for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, as well as to amend Section 112 and bring it into line with Article 19 of the ICCPR on the right to freedom of expression.
The full statement reads:
We are deeply troubled by the move by Thai authorities to charge at least 35 protesters in recent weeks, including a 16-year old student protester, under Article 112 – the lèse majesté provision of Thailand’s criminal code. The offence carries sentences of between three and 15 years’ imprisonment for defaming, insulting or threatening the country’s royal family. We are particularly alarmed that the 16-year-old protester was yesterday presented by police to the Juvenile Court with a request for a detention order. The Court denied the detention order and granted conditional bail.
A number of UN human rights mechanisms, including the UN Human Rights Committee, which oversees implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), have repeatedly called on Thailand to bring this law in line with the country’s international obligations. It is extremely disappointing that after a period of two years without any cases, we are suddenly witnessing a large number of cases, and – shockingly – now also against a minor.
We also remain concerned that other serious criminal charges are being filed against protesters engaged in peaceful protests in recent months, including charges of sedition and offences under the Computer Crime Act. Again, such charges have been filed against a minor, among others.
We call on the Government of Thailand to stop the repeated use of such serious criminal charges against individuals for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. People should be able to exercise these rights without fear of reprisals. The UN Human Rights Committee has found that detention of individuals solely for exercising the right to freedom of expression or other human rights constitutes arbitrary arrest or detention.
We also urge the Government to amend the lèse majesté law and bring it into line with Article 19 of the ICCPR on the right to freedom of expression.