Cabinet gives nod for draft bill on torture, abduction

Cabinet gives nod for draft bill on torture, abduction

The cabinet on Tuesday approved the Justice Ministry's draft bill to allow the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) to intervene in cases of torture and forced disappearance, an official said.

Speaking after the weekly cabinet meeting on Tuesday, deputy government spokeswoman Rachada Dhnadirek said if approved in its current state, the bill on the Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearances would label torture and forced disappearance cases as criminal offences, but not as political crimes.

Ms Rachada said if the bill becomes a law, cases of torture and forced disappearance will be given a special status and the DSI would be authorised to take over. She said if DSI officials suspect a crime has been committed, police will step in.

"If victims are seriously injured, perpetrators would face a five-to-15-year jail sentence and a fine of 100,000-300,000 baht," Ms Rachada said. "If the victims are killed, culprits would face a jail term of 10-20 years, or even for life, and a 200,000-400,000-baht fine."

She said if the bill becomes a law, it would also allow relatives of victims to "take action on their behalf".

Currently, relatives of the victims cannot represent them in court. As a result, cases, like that of Somchai Neelapaijit, a human rights lawyer who disappeared in 2004, can not be solved.

Ms Rachada said the draft bill will be forwarded to the Office of the Council of State and presented to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Somchai Homlaor, a human rights lawyer, said civil society groups have expressed support for the move but signalled the bill will still need work.

"We encourage prosecutors to take over these cases, while civilian courts oversee trial proceedings," Mr Somchai said. "In some cases, if soldiers are implicated, they would go to military courts where relatives of the victims would not be allowed to go in as plaintiffs."

He said the government's version of the bill should set the statute of limitations for torture and forced disappearance cases at 50 years and list discrimination as a possible motive.

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