Thursday, May 19, 2016

THAILAND: Stop judicial harassment of Sirikan Charoensiri

19 May 2016

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THAILAND: Stop judicial harassment of Sirikan Charoensiri

ISSUES: Human Rights Defenders; Rule of Law; Fair Trial 
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Dear Friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received updated information that Ms. Sirikan Charoensiri, a lawyer at Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), reported herself to the public prosecutor on 12 May 2016, relating to the case in which she was charged for providing legal assistance to 14 pro-democracy activists. Ms. Sirikan's case has created a perception that lawyers providing legal representation in so called 'political' cases may face harassment from police and other State authorities.

CASE NARRATIVE:

Ms. Sirikan Charoensiri is a human rights lawyer who is the one of legal representatives for the 14 student activists from the New Democracy Movement (NDM). The NDM was founded by a core group of mostly students of working class backgrounds from Bangkok and Khon Kaen, who have been actively involved with the campaign to recall democracy in Thailand.

On 26 June 2015, police arrested the 14 student activists in execution of an arrest warrant issued by the Bangkok Military Court. They were charged with violating National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Order No. 3/2015, which bans gatherings of more than five people, and Article 116 of the Thai Criminal Code regarding sedition. On June 27 the Bangkok Military Court granted remand in custody of the 14 student activists for 12 days. The 13 men are detained at the Bangkok Remand Prison, and one woman is held at the Woman Correctional Institution.

During the night of June 26-27, Ms. Sirikan together with seven other TLHR colleagues were on duty and assisted the 14 students activists as lawyers.

After finishing her duty of providing legal assistance to them at the Bangkok Military Court, Ms. Sirikan was requested by police officials lead by Police Major General Chayapol Chatchaidej, commander of the Sixth Division of Metropolitan Police Bureau, to have her car searched to confiscate some mobile phones, which the students left with the lawyers before being brought to the prisons. Ms. Sirikan refused to let her car be searched, since the officials did not present a search warrant, and there was no justifiable evidence to conduct the search without a warrant at night. The officials then impounded her car overnight, and brought a court warrant to conduct the search on 27 June 2015. Miss Sirikan later filed a complaint of malfeasance, under Section 157 of the Thai Criminal Code, against General Chayapol Chatchayadetch and others for illegally impounding her car.

Consequently, the police filed complaints against her, accusing her of refusing to comply with an official order without any reasonable cause or excuse after being informed of an order of an official given according to the power invested by law, and an offence of concealing or making away of property or document ordered by the official to be sent as evidence or for execution of the law, under Sections 368 and 142 of the Thai Criminal Code, and an offence of giving false information concerning a criminal offence to an inquiry official to subject an individual to a punishment under Sections 172 and 174 of the Criminal Code.

The police investigation at the Chanasongkram Police Station has been completed, and Ms. Sirikan's case has been sent to the public prosecutor of Dusit District Court in Bangkok. On 27 April 2016, Ms. Sirikan received a summons to report herself to the public prosecutor. The prosecutor informed Ms. Sirikan that police investigators have agreed to press charges against her under Articles 368 and 142 of the Thai Criminal Code on 12 May 2016.

However, under Thai law, after the police have concluded an investigation and decide to proceed with a case, they announce the date on which the case file and the charged person will be presented to the public prosecutor. The public prosecutor will then decide whether to prosecute the case or issue a non-prosecution order. If the public prosecutor decides to issue a prosecution order, he must seek permission from the Attorney General according to Articles 7 and 9 of the Act on Establishment of District Courts and District Court Procedure 1956. The Act does not indicate the timeframe within which the Attorney General must give permission to issue a prosecution order.

Therefore, Ms. Sirikan and her legal team have submitted an appeal for justice with the public prosecutor, to examine more witnesses and consider her legal/factual arguments, and hopefully dismiss the case.

Nevertheless, according to the prosecutor, they will announce whether to indict Ms. Sirikan on 27 July 2016.


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

Progress of Ms.Sirikan's other cases

1. Ms. Sirikan's complaint against Pol.Lt. Gen. Chayapol Chatchayadetch for Malfeasance, an offence under Section 157 of the Thai Criminal Code, for arbitrarily impounding Sirikan's car overnight as she refused to let her car be searched without a court order, is under investigation by the National Anti-Corruption Commission. 

2. The criminal charges against Ms. Sirikan of filing a false police report, an offence under Section 172 (imprisonment not exceeding two years) and Section 174 (imprisonment not exceeding five years) of the Criminal Code--As the inquiry official was informing Ms. Sirikan of the charges on 9 February 2016, Ms.Sirikan's lawyer asked the inquiry official on the detail of the alleged offence. The inquiry official failed to indicate which information Ms. Sirikan had filed was false. Thus, Ms. Sirikan refused to be informed of the charges in this case. The inquiry official did not yet press the charges against her, and shall question the accuser for clarification of which information was false as alleged. The inquiry official will summon Ms. Sirikan to inform these charges later. At this time, Ms. Sirikan is not charged by police with two offences of filing a false police report. However, it is probable that the police will summon her to inform the charges again.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write a letter to the following government authorities to urge them to drop the charges against Ms. Sirikan Charoensiri and to maintain its respect for the independence of lawyers and ensure lawyers are able to conduct their professional functions without fear of official reprisals. Please also be informed that the AHRC is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers calling for their intervention into this matter.
To support this case, please click here: 


SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ___________,

THAILAND: Stop Judicial Harassment of Sirikan Charoensiri

Name of victim: Ms. Sirikan Charoensiri
Names of alleged perpetrators: the police lead by Pol. Maj. Gen. Chayapol Chatchaidej, commander of the Sixth Division of Metropolitan Police Bureau
Date of incident: 27 June 2015
Place of incident: Bangkok, Thailand

I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding the recent cases of intimidation and harassment against human rights lawyers in Thailand. Ms. Sirikan Charoensiri is a human rights lawyer who is the one of legal representatives for the 14 student activists from the New Democracy Movement (NDM).

On 26 June 2015, police arrested the 14 student activists in execution of an arrest warrant issued by the Bangkok Military Court. They were charged with violating National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Order No. 3/2015, which bans gatherings of more than five people, and Article 116 of the Thai Criminal Code regarding sedition. On June 27 the Bangkok Military Court granted remand in custody of the 14 student activists for 12 days. The 13 men are detained at the Bangkok Remand Prison, and one woman is held at the Woman Correctional Institution.

During the night of June 26-27, Ms. Sirikan together with seven other TLHR colleagues were on duty and assisted the 14 students activists as lawyers.

After finishing her duty of providing legal assistance to them at the Bangkok Military Court, Ms. Sirikan was requested by police officials lead by Police Major General Chayapol Chatchaidej, commander of the Sixth Division of Metropolitan Police Bureau, to have her car searched to confiscate some mobile phones, which the students left with the lawyers before being brought to the prisons. Ms. Sirikan refused to let her car be searched, since the officials did not present a search warrant, and there was no justifiable evidence to conduct the search without a warrant at night. The officials then impounded her car overnight, and brought a court warrant to conduct the search on 27 June 2015. Miss Sirikan later filed a complaint of malfeasance, under Section 157 of the Thai Criminal Code, against General Chayapol Chatchayadetch and others for illegally impounding her car.

Consequently, the police filed complaints against her, accusing her of refusing to comply with an official order without any reasonable cause or excuse after being informed of an order of an official given according to the power invested by law, and an offence of concealing or making away of property or document ordered by the official to be sent as evidence or for execution of the law, under Sections 368 and 142 of the Thai Criminal Code, and an offence of giving false information concerning a criminal offence to an inquiry official to subject an individual to a punishment under Sections 172 and 174 of the Criminal Code.

Since the police investigation at the Chanasongkram Police Station has been completed, and Ms. Sirikan's case has been sent to the public prosecutor of Dusit District Court in Bangkok, on 27 April 2016, Ms. Sirikan received a summons to report herself to the public prosecutor. The prosecutor informed Ms. Sirikan that police investigators have agreed to press charges against her under Articles 368 and 142 of the Thai Criminal Code on 12 May 2016.

As you must be aware however, under Thai law, after the police have concluded an investigation and decide to proceed with a case, they announce the date on which the case file and the charged person will be presented to the public prosecutor. The public prosecutor will then decide whether to prosecute the case or issue a non-prosecution order. Therefore, Ms. Sirikan and her legal team have submitted an appeal for justice with the public prosecutor, to examine more witnesses and consider her legal/factual arguments, and hopefully dismiss the case.

Nevertheless, according to the prosecutor, they will announce whether to indict Ms. Sirikan on 27 July 2016.

I am concerned that this case has created a perception that lawyers providing legal representation in so-called 'political' cases may face harassment from police and other State authorities. They undermine the ability of lawyers in Thailand to conduct their professional functions without fear of official reprisals.

I wish to point out that it is a fundamental principle in international law that lawyers must be able to represent their clients without fear of retaliation, interference or harassment. Principle 16 of the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers states that: "Governments shall ensure that lawyers… are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference". The Basic Principles have been applied in international jurisprudence, as an extension of the right to a fair trial in Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand is a party. The Basic Principles further recognize that lawyers "shall not be identified with their clients or their clients' causes as a result of discharging their functions." Indeed, lawyers must be able to act freely, diligently and fearlessly in accordance with the wishes of their clients.

In addition, the ICCPR also guarantees the right to peaceful assembly; the right to freedom of expression; the prohibition of arbitrary arrest or detention and the right to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law (including the right of prompt access to a lawyer and precluding jurisdiction of military courts over civilians in circumstances such as these); and the prohibition of arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy, family, home and correspondence (which includes arbitrary searches or seizures).

Hence, I urge the Thai authorities to:
1. Call on the Thai Royal Police to guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Sirikan Charoensiri;
2. Call on the Thai Royal Police and the Office of Attorney General to immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against Ms. Sirikan, and put an end to all acts of judicial harassment against her;
3. Call on Thai authorities and the Lawyer Council of Thailand to comply with the national and international law safeguarding the independence of lawyers and protecting them from unlawful interference in their professional activities.

Yours Sincerely,

……………….

PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. General Prayuth Chan-ocha
Prime Minister
Head of the National Council for Peace and Order
Royal Thai Army Commander-in-Chief
Rachadamnoen Nok Road
Bang Khun Phrom
Bangkok 10200 
THAILAND
E-mail: prforeign@gmail.com

2. Mr. Paiboon Khumchaya 
Minister of Justice
The Government Complex Commemorating His Majesty the King's 80th Birthday Anniversary 5th December, B.E.2550 (2007), Building B 120 Moo 3
Chaengwattana Road 
Thoongsonghong, Laksi Bangkok 10210 
THAILAND
Tel: +66 2 14 5100
Email: callcenter@moj.go.th


3. Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda
Commissioner General of the Royal Thai Police 
Rama I Rd, Khwaeng Pathum Wan, 
Khet Pathum Wan, Bangkok 10330
THAILAND

4. Pol.Sub.Lt. Pongniwat Yuthaphunboripahn 
Deputy Attorney General.
The Office of the Attorney General
The Government Complex Commemorating His Majesty the King's 80th Birthday Anniversary 5th December, B.E.2550 (2007), Building B 120 Moo 3
Chaengwattana Road 
Thoongsonghong, Laksi Bangkok 10210 
THAILAND

Tel: +66 2 142 1444 
Fax: +66 2 143 9546 
Email: ag@ago.go.th

5. Mr. What Tingsamitr
Chairman, National Human Rights Commission 
The Government Complex Commemorating His Majesty the King's 80th Birthday Anniversary 5th December
B.E.2550 (2007), Building B 120 Moo 3
Chaengwattana Road 
Thoongsonghong, Laksi Bangkok 10210 
THAILAND 
E-mail: help@nhrc.or.th

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