The Sub-Committee on Torture and Enforced Disappearance of the Ministry of Justice has called off its investigation into the alleged beating of two protesters while in the custody of officers from Din Daeng Police Station, ruling that the beating does not constitute torture.
The Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF) reported on Wednesday (22 June) that Auttasit Nussa, one of the two protesters who were beaten by police while in custody at Din Daeng Police Station after a candlelight vigil for a dead protester on 29 October 2021, received a letter from the Sub-Committee informing him that they have closed the investigation since they have ruled that the beating is not torture.
Auttasit was arrested on 29 October 2021, along with another protester named Weeraphab Wongsaman, as people went to the police station to hold a candlelight vigil for Warit Somnoi, a 15-year-old boy shot by an unidentified party in front of the police station on the night of 16 August 2021. Warit died on 28 October 2021 after spending 2 months in a coma at Rajavithi Hospital’s intensive care unit.
Auttasit said that he and another protester were taken into Din Daeng Police Station and were beaten as the police tried to extract information from him which he said he did not know, and that the police told him that if he died during the beatings, they would make his death look like an accident.
He then filed a complaint at the Din Daeng Police Station, and then with the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) in November 2021. On 12 January 2022, he went to give testimony. He was also asked to give information to a sub-committee consisting of representatives from the Institute of Forensic Medicine; the Rights and Liberties Protection Department, and the DSI, a complex process that according to CrCF has delayed the investigation.
Auttasit's injuries after he was taken into police custody
Despite repeated requests, police have not provided Auttasit with CCTV footage from the evening or the results of medical check-up he was given before being released. The officers he accuses of beating him remain on duty and there is no indication that an internal disciplinary investigation committee has been established.
According to CrCF, the letter Auttasit received from the Sub-Committee stated that he was arrested and assaulted by being dragged from in front of the police station into an investigation room, and that officers stepped on his legs, beat him with their batons, and choked him several times, causing bruising and scratches around his eyes and on his face and torso. However, the letter stated that the Sub-Committee has called off the investigation as the assault does not constitute torture under the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) since it was not done to obtain a confession and because Auttasit did not suffer any major injury.
Weeraphab being dragged into Din Daeng Police Station (Screencapture from video by Chana La/iLaw)
CrCF lawyer Preeda Nakpew said that even though images of the assault came from before Auttasit was taken inside the police station, Auttasit himself said that he was being beaten for information on who set fire on the spirit shrine in front of the police station, and that it was clear the officers were beating him in order to obtain evidence. He said that this amounts to torture under UNCAT’s definition, and that the Sub-Committee may only see the images of the incident outside the police station and interpret it as a general case of assault.
Preeda also said that having to go through the investigation by the Sub-Committee made things more complicated, since previously a complaint could be filed and received by DSI, which already has its own committee to consider the complaints it receives. He also questioned whether the Sub-Committee has enough expertise to deal with torture cases.
Nevertheless, Preeda said that they are still waiting for answers from the office of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), since the complaint is filed against a state official. He explained that after Auttasit filed a complaint with Din Daeng Police Station, the police must forward the complaint to the NACC and has already done so.