Human rights group slams Thailand’s judicial system


Mar 26, 2007, 10:35 GMT

Bangkok – Calling Thailand’s judicial system a ‘mess,’
the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) on Monday urged the country’s
judges to set an example and conduct speedy and fair trials.        The
AHRC appealed to the Bangkok South Criminal Court to halt the case of
four Thai men accused of plotting to kill a supreme court president.
The accused have appeared in court 461 times before 91 different judges
since proceedings began in 1993.

   The case is an example of the urgent need for ‘a drastic overhaul of
Thailand’s criminal procedures,’ said the Hong Kong-based commission in
a statement.

   ‘The failure to bring the trial to a prompt
conclusion amounts to a violation of the defendants’ fundamental rights
under both national and international law.’

   The accused have staunchly maintained the police set them up and no material
evidence has ever been offered against them. Two of the four were
imprisoned for seven years before receiving bail.

   The court, obliged by law to see that trials are ‘speedy, continuous and
fair’ has grounds and the authority to stop the case, but declines to
do so, according to AHRC.

   In Thailand, forced confessions are the preferred route to convictions and the AHRC described as ‘conservative’ a senior justice ministry official’s admission last year that 30 per cent of cases went to court with no evidence.

The military coup last September has stalled tentative reforms initiated by senior judges, but with no constitution in place, no reforms could be
expected until a return to civilian rule.

In the meantime, the commission called on judges themselves to ensure that trials are conducted speedily, fairly and continuously.

   Thai judge should ensure that evidence exists and if none is brought forward then judges should promptly dismiss cases.

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