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Thailand: UN body petitioned over imprisonment of human rights lawyer Anon Nampa

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The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT) and Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) have petitioned the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) on the ongoing imprisonment of prominent Thai pro-democracy activist and human rights lawyer Anon Nampa, who is currently serving an eight-year prison term on charges under Article 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code (lèse-majesté or royal defamation).

Bangkok, Paris, Geneva, March 4, 2024. Anon Nampa was convicted by the Bangkok Criminal Court in two lèse-majesté cases, on September 26, 2023 and January 17, 2024. He was sentenced to four years in prison for each case. The two sentences are to be served consecutively, for a total prison term of eight years.

“Anon Nampa has been prosecuted and imprisoned for his peaceful promotion of human rights. We are confident that the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention will recognise the arbitrariness of Anon’s deprivation of liberty and urge the Thai authorities to immediately and unconditionally release him,” said FIDH Secretary-General Adilur Rahman Khan.

Gerald Staberock, Secretary General of the OMCT commented: “In Anon’s case, Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code has been abused to punish legitimate human rights work. We should not forget that various UN human rights bodies have repeatedly found that Article 112 is inconsistent with international human rights law.”

Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code prescribes prison terms of three to 15 years per count for anyone who defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, Heir to the throne or Regent.

Anon Nampa's convictions and imprisonment stem from the exercise of his right to freedom of opinion and expression during Thailand's pro-democracy protest movement in 2020-2021.

Anon Nampa is currently facing legal action in connection with 12 more lèse-majesté cases. Prior to his imprisonment, he was held in pre-trial detention for two prolonged periods (113 days and 202 days). The courts have denied his numerous bail requests.

The Observatory and TLHR argue that Anon Nampa's deprivation of liberty is arbitrary because it violates numerous provisions of international law relating to the right to liberty, the right to a fair trial and the right to freedom of opinion and expression, guaranteed by articles 9, 14, and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand is a state party. The Observatory and TLHR also maintain that Anon Nampa's deprivation of liberty stems from his political opinions and his status as a human rights defender.

Over the past decade, various UN human rights monitoring mechanisms have repeatedly expressed concerns about the application of Article 112 in Thailand. They have on several occasions considered this law to be incompatible with international human rights law and have called for its amendment or repeal, as well as the release of lèse-majesté detainees.

In addition, since August 2012, the WGAD has found the deprivation of liberty of ten individuals detained under Article 112 to be “arbitrary” because it contravened several provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ICCPR.

The Observatory and TLHR call for the immediate and unconditional release of Anon Nampa and the amendment of Article 112 to bring it into line with Thailand’s obligations under the ICCPR. The organisations also urge the government to refrain from arresting, prosecuting and detaining human rights defenders under Article 112 for simply exercising their fundamental right to freedom of opinion and expression.

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