UNHRC 5th October
On the 5th October 2011 an important event is taking place in Geneva. The United Nation’s Human Rights Committee holds its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) where for the first time Thailand’s human rights record will be reviewed. This is an important meeting for the Lese Majeste campaign. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Thai Union for Civil Liberty (UCL) will be lobbying this meeting to review the law. Below is a protest letter sent by FIDH in preparation for this meeting and explains very clearly what the human rights case against Lese Majeste is.
HE Ms Yingluck Shinawatra
Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand
Pitsanulok Road, Dusit District
Bangkok 10300, Thailand
Via Fax: +66 2288-4016
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organization in Thailand, the Union for Civil Liberty (UCL), respectfully urge you to make effective protection and promotion of human rights a top priority in your administration. On 5 October, Thailand’s human rights record will be examined for the first time by the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, and it is essential that your government demonstrate to the international community and the people of Thailand a genuine commitment to restore full democracy, respect the rule of law, and outline the concrete steps you plan to take to fulfill this commitment.
As a State party to eight major international human rights treaties, Thailand has the obligation not only to respect and fulfill human rights, but also to take all necessary measures to ensure their full protection. While the protracted political turmoil in Thailand in the past six years is complex, our organizations believe that the lack of respect for human rights and of access to justice for victims constitute a major underlying factor and contribute to a growing sense of injustice pervasive in the country.
RESTRICTIONS ON FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND OF THE MEDIA
Freedom of expression and opinion is a cornerstone of every free and democratic society. It is protected by the Constitution of Thailand of 2007 (Part 7, Section 45) and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand acceded in 1996. The National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, in its UPR report, called on the government to “adhere strictly to the provisions of the Constitution in guaranteeing the freedom of the media and the people.”
Restrictions on freedom of expression are permissible under international law if, and only if, they are provided by law to protect the rights of others or for the purpose of national security and public order, in strict conformity with the tests of necessity and proportionality. Such restrictions of liberties need to remain exceptional and defined in very clear and narrow terms, with robust safeguards and remedial measures in place to check against abuses.
In Thailand, the lese majeste laws as well as the Computer Crimes Act of 2007 are unfortunately applied in an abusive and non-transparent manner and are inconsistent with international standards for the protection of freedom of expression. The same can be said of several special security laws which restrict freedom of expression. All these laws are formulated in overly broad and vague terms, giving wide and virtually unchecked discretionary power to State authorities to arbitrarily censor the media, criminalize peaceful speech, and restrict freedom of expression without adequate judicial and other independent oversight. They have also been increasingly used to curtail peaceful and legitimate expression of political and dissenting opinions. In 2010, when a state of emergency was imposed in Bangkok and other provinces, tens of thousands of web-pages were blocked, over a hundred opposition community radio stations were shut down, and various other news outlets were heavily censored or closed down entirely.
FIDH and UCL strongly recommend the Thai government to undertake a comprehensive and rigorous review of all legislations and administrative measures that impinge upon the freedom of expression and amend or repeal those inconsistent with or in violation of international human rights law and standards. The authorities must disclose the details and number of lese majeste cases to the public, cease the practice of closed trials, and end all forms of censorship and intimidation of journalists, netizens and Internet service providers. Silencing the people who exercise their legitimate rights is not only a hallmark of an authoritarian regime but also a recipe for social tension and conflict. It is high time that the Thai government take concrete and serious action to cease and rectify such violations of freedom of expression.