Bill against forced disappearance, torture passed by House

Bill against forced disappearance, torture passed by House

A long-stalled bill criminalising torture and political disappearances was passed by the House of Representatives on Wednesday, as victims' families struggle for answers in scores of unsolved missing-persons cases.

The bill easily cleared the third and final reading with a vote of 359-3, with one abstention. 

The legislation will now go to the Senate for approval, which could be in the next parliamentary sitting in May.

The legislation combined four similar bills proposed by the cabinet; the House committee on law, justice and human rights; the Prachachat Party and the Democrat Party. They were integrated during scrutiny as part of the second reading, with the cabinet's version used as the core bill.

The House approved bill contains 34 sections in five chapters as well as a provisional clause.

Scrutiny panel chairman Chavalit Wichayasut (Pheu Thai, Nakhon Phanom) said the bill complied with two international conventions against forced disappearances and torture.

The bill broadens punishable acts of inhumane and dehumanising treatment of people and requires officials to make audio and video recordings while they search or arrest suspects.

Also, a commission will be formed to deal specifically with forced disappearance and torture cases through multi-disciplinary approaches including human rights and psychology. MPs will take part in selecting the commissioners.

Disappearances and acts of torture will be handled as special cases involving joint investigations by related agencies with a system in place to prevent evidence being tampered with or destroyed, according to Mr Chavalit.

In addition, offenders in forced disappearance or torture cases involving death would face 15 to 30 years in prison.

Angkana Nilapaijit, a human rights activist whose missing lawyer husband Somchai Neelaphaijit was abducted in 2004, was on the House committee responsible for one of the draft bills.

"I believe the bill will be beneficial for everyone," she said, adding that it would compel officials to be more careful in handling such cases.

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