Thailand: Ongoing harassment against human rights lawyer Ms. Sirikan “June” Charoensiri

10/05/2016
Urgent Appeal

New information
THA 001 / 0715 / OBS 055.5
Ongoing judicial harassment
Thailand
May 10, 2016

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Thailand.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the ongoing judicial harassment against Ms. Sirikan “June” Charoensiri, a human rights lawyer with the organisation Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) [1], in connection with her work representing 14 activists of the Neo Democracy Movement (NDM).

According to the information received, on April 27, 2016, Ms. Sirikan “June” Charoensiri was summoned to appear before the Public Prosecutor at the Subdistrict 3 Court in Dusit, Bangkok, at 10 am on May 12, 2016. Ms. Sirikan faces accusations of “failure to comply with official orders” [2] (Article 368 of the Criminal Code) and “concealing evidence” (Article 142) as a result of a lawsuit filed by Ms. Sirikan against Thai police for “malfeasance” in June 2015 (see background information). The Prosecutor will then decide whether to proceed further with the case or not. If indicted, Ms. Sirikan could face a punishment of up to three years in prison and/or fine of up to 6,000 baht (approximately 153 euros).

The Observatory strongly condemns the ongoing judicial harassment against Ms. Sirikan, which aims to hinder her legitimate work as a human rights lawyer, and calls on the Thai authorities to immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against her.

Background information:

On June 26, 2015, police arrested 14 activists of the Neo Democracy Movement (NDM) [3] pursuant to an arrest warrant issued by the Bangkok Military Court. All were charged with violating the Head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Order No. 3/2015, which bans gatherings of five or more people, and Article 116 of the Thai Criminal Code (“sedition”). On July 7, the Bangkok Military Court ordered the release of the 14. However, the charges against them remain pending. Ms. Sirikan together with seven other TLHR lawyers assisted the 14 students at the Bangkok Military Court.

On the night of June 26-27, 2015, after Ms. Sirikan had finished her duty of providing legal assistance to the 14 activists, more than 10 police officers stationed by the Bangkok Military Court, including Pol. Maj. Gen. Chayapol Chatchaidej, commander of the Sixth Division of Metropolitan Police Bureau, requested access to Ms. Sirikan’s car in order to search for the mobile phones of the activist students. Following Ms. Sirikan’s refusal due to the lack of a court warrant and relying on the special protection of lawyers and of the lawyer-client confidentiality, the police officers impounded Ms. Sirikan’s car overnight.

At 12:45 pm on June 27, Ms. Sirikan filed a complaint against Pol. Maj. Gen. Chayapol Chatchayadetch and others for “malfeasance” (Article 157 of Thai Criminal Code) for illegally impounding her car. While Ms. Sirikan was in the process of filing the complaint, a police team arrived at the site of her seized car at 3:30 pm with a search warrant. Officials from the Office of Police Forensic Science accompanied the police to conduct the search.

Upon presentation of the search warrant, Ms. Sirikan, who went back on the spot, agreed to open her car. Equipment found in the car included TLHR’s case files, personal computers of the seven TLHR lawyers and personal belongings of the student activists including mobile phones. Five mobile phones belonging to the students were confiscated and placed into a sealed envelope, which was turned over to the custody of the Office of Police Forensic Science.

Ms. Sirikan subsequently returned to the Chanasongkram police station in Bangkok to file a second complaint against Pol. Maj. Gen. Chayapol Chatchaidej and his subordinates for “malfeasance”, despite being threatened that the police would then file a counter suit against her.

On June 28, 2015, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Pol Lt Gen Srivara Rangsipramkul told reporters that the police had recovered important evidence from Ms. Sirikan’s car and that the police were considering whether to press charges against her.

On June 29, 2015, police visited the house of Ms. Sirikan’s parents in her hometown and asked her mother to identify her in various photos and asked about her daughter’s background.

On February 2, 2016, Ms. Sirikan received a police summons to report to Bangkok’s Chanasongkram police station on February 9, 2016, to hear criminal charges filed against her under Articles 172 (“filing a false police report”) and 368 (“failure to comply with official orders”) of the Criminal Code.

On February 9, 2016, Ms. Sirikan appeared at the Chanasongkram police station in Bangkok and was formally charged with “failure to comply with official orders” (Article 368 of the Criminal Code) and with “concealing evidence” (Article 142).

Moreover, a second case brought against Ms. Sirikan on the alleged charges of “providing false information concerning a criminal offence likely to cause damage to others or the public [4]” (Articles 172 and 174) is yet to be proceeded, due to the inability of the inquiry officer to indicate the alleged false statements or information that she has been accused of reporting to the police. If the charges were to be further proceeded, Ms. Sirikan could face imprisonment of up to five years and a fine of up to 10,000 baht (approximately 253 euros).

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Thailand asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Sirikan “June” Charoensiri as well as of all human rights defenders in Thailand;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against Ms. Sirikan, and put an end to all acts of judicial harassment against her, the 14 NDM activists above-mentioned and all human rights defenders in Thailand;

iii. Comply with the national and international legislation safeguarding the independence of lawyers and protecting them from unlawful interference in their professional activities;

iv. Repeal the Head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Order No. 3/2015 banning gatherings of more than five people;

v. Guarantee that the exercise of freedom of expression and assembly are not prosecuted under Article 116 of the Thai Criminal Code;

vi. Put an end to the prosecution of civilians in military courts in accordance with international human rights law that prohibits governments from using military courts to try civilians when civilian courts are functioning;

vii. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially its Articles 1 and 12.2;

viii. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Thailand.

Addresses:

· Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, Prime Minister of Thailand, Fax: +66 (0) 2 282 5131
· Don Pramudwinai, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fax: +66 (0) 2 643 5320; Email: minister@mfa.go.th
· Gen Paiboon Khumchaya, Minister of Justice, Fax: +66 (0) 2 953 0503
· Pol Gen Somyot Poompanmoung, Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police, Fax: +66 (0) 2 251 5956 / +66 (0) 2 251 8702
· Mr. Wat Tingsamit, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand; Email: help@nhrc.or.th
· H.E. Mr. Thani Thongphakdi, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Thailand to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: + 41 22 715 10 00 / 10 02; Email: mission.thailand@ties.itu.int
· H.E. Ms. Busaya Mathelin, Ambassador, Embassy of Thailand in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: + 32 2 648 30 66; Email: thaibxl@thaiembassy.be

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Thailand in your respective country.

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    Geneva-Paris, May 10, 2016

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