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August 10, 2010

Letter to PM Abhisit on Investigation Into Deaths during Red Shirt Protests

Below is the full text of a letter delivered today, August 10th, 2010, to the Prime Minister of Thailand Abhisit Vejjajiva and other members of government on behalf of Robert Amsterdam and the defense counsel for victims of the crackdown against the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship.  The letter addresses a number of unresolved issues raised in previous correspondence with the authorities, which can be viewed here.  A PDF can be downloaded at the foot of this post.

Re: Investigation Into Deaths during Red Shirt Protests (April/May 2010)


As you now know, this law firm acts as legal counsel to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and as advisors to Thai counsel for members of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) charged criminally in connection with the so called Red Shirt protests that took place in Bangkok in March, April and May 2010.

We wrote to you initially on June 29, 2010, to notify you of Thailand’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) – an international treaty to which Thailand has acceded – to perform a genuinely independent and impartial investigation into the deaths of more than 80 civilians killed during the protests. We also notified you of your duty under the ICCPR to provide defense counsel for the charged UDD members with the opportunity to review all evidence, and we requested access to the same.

We have received no response to our letter, nor has defense counsel been provided with access to all of the evidence. As a result, we would like to reiterate our initial request, the satisfaction of which is essential to our capacity to properly defend our clients against the serious charges they currently face.

As detailed in the first letter, the ICCPR guarantees our clients the right to fair treatment in the conduct of their defense – including the right to be represented by counsel of their choosing and to independently examine all the evidence pertinent to the charges against them. Consequently, we renew our request to disclose to our clients’ defense team all physical, forensic, documentary and audio/video evidence concerning any purported criminal violations by Prime Minister Thaksin or members of the UDD in connection with the Red Shirt rallies. Further, we ask that you permit our clients, through their defense team, to examine all physical evidence and to conduct their own independent forensic studies and analyses.

Of course, Thailand has an independent obligation under international law to conduct a fair and complete investigation into all potential human rights violations, and to prosecute those responsible where applicable. The United Nations Human Rights Committee, which supervises and authoritatively interprets the ICCPR, has urged member states to “avoid cases of impunity and, especially, to allow the victims of human rights violations to find out the truth about those acts, to know who the perpetrators of such acts are and to obtain appropriate compensation.” Failure to do so may constitute a separate violation of the ICCPR.

In addition to allowing anyone whose rights under the ICCPR were violated, such as the victims of extrajudicial and/or arbitrary killings, to seek redress for the abuses they have suffered, an independent investigation is also essential to our clients’ right to a fair trial.  Because at least a dozen of our clients are charged with criminal responsibility for the violence that occurred in April and May, the facts and circumstances surrounding all civilian and military deaths are relevant. As such, any evidence relating to whether the Thai Authorities reacted to the Red Shirt protests in a proportional manner, as well as the circumstances surrounding the killing of almost ninety civilians by the Thai Authorities, bear directly upon the guilt and innocence of our clients.

Whether or not the government plans to conduct such an investigation on its own, our clients have a right to review independently, through their own experts and counsel, all evidence pertaining to the government’s response to the Red Shirt protests. Therefore, we reiterate our request that the government provide our clients’ defense team with immediate access to all governmental or military documents relating to the Thai government’s overarching strategy, operational orders, written or oral instructions, and all military, intelligence, investigative or other expert reports used by the Thai Authorities to prepare for, address, and disperse the Red Shirt protests. We further request immediate access to all statements made by police, military and/or government officials within the chain of command regarding the use of military force in response to the Red Shirt protests, as well as complete documentation reflecting the chain of command within the sections of Thai military assigned to the containment and dispersal of the Red Shirt rallies, including all governmental or military documents identifying the specific units involved, together with their roles.

Once again, we hope that the Thai government will fully comply with its obligations under international law. Having received no response to our initial request, we urge you to respond as soon as possible.

Robert R. Amsterdam

Letter to Thai Authorities – August 10, 2010

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