Thursday, March 17, 2011

ASIA: Religious violence in Asia and impunity for Somchai’s disappearance in Thailand denounced

document id: ALRC-COS-16-21-2011

An Oral Statement to the 16th Session of the UN Human Rights Council from the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), a non-governmental organization in general consultative status

The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) would, at the outset, like to express its deepest sympathy and solidarity with the people of Japan.

The ALRC is gravely concerned by Sri Lanka’s perilous plunge into autocracy. Increasing religious violence against minorities, as witnessed in Indonesia concerning Ahmadiyyas, and Pakistan concerning Christians and those opposing the archaic and flawed blasphemy law, is also greatly disturbing. The assassination on March 2, of Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Religious Minorities, exactly two months after that of former governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, shows the extent to which such violence is tolerated, and promoted through impunity, in Pakistan.

The case of human rights lawyer Somchai Neelaipaijit, who was forcibly disappeared seven years ago in Thailand, is emblematic of challenges in the region. On March 11, 2011, the Criminal Court acquitted the five alleged perpetrators in this case, exposing a system of impunity. The verdict ruled that Somchai’s wife, Anghkana, who addressed this Council just last week, and her children, cannot be joint-plaintiffs, preventing them from seeking justice. The defendants were all acquitted because of the lack of legislation specifically prohibiting enforced disappearance and because evidence of Somchai’s death was not possible. In cases of disappearance, the person’s death or injury can, by definition, not be ascertained.

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