Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Amnesty International urges police chief to stop criminalising peaceful protesters

Jul 31. 2020
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By The Nation

Rights group Amnesty International has called on national police chief Chaktip Chaijinda to halt the detention and criminalisation of anti-government demonstrators in Thailand “solely for exercising their human rights by participating in peaceful protests”.

In a letter to Chaktip, Amnesty cautioned that as a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Thailand is obliged to ensure that the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are fully respected and protected without distinction of any kind, including political opinion.

The letter comes after police banned a series of anti-government demonstrations and arrested protest leaders, using blanket powers under the state of emergency ostensibly imposed to control Covid-19.

Amnesty also called on the police chief to withdraw criminal complaints brought against dozens of peaceful political activists, including students.

It pointed out that in most cases, demonstrators have complied with measures designed to protect public health, including wearing masks and physical distancing.

“[W]e urge you to ensure that the Royal Thai Police, while discharging its responsibility to maintain order and protect public health during the Covid-19 pandemic, polices demonstrations in a way that effectively enables peaceful assemblies to take place,” the rights group said.

Amnesty noted demonstrators have reported that police officers have harassed and intimidated individuals solely for their involvement in peaceful protests during this period, including ongoing student-led demonstrations calling for constitutional reform, resignation of the government, and an end to harassment of the political opposition.

It said police have visited demonstrators and their families at their homes and warned them against joining protests.

It also urged the police to respect and protect the rights of human rights activists monitoring demonstrations, and not to confiscate or destroy any written or recorded materials and equipment used to monitor the demonstrations.

Amnesty reminded Chaktip of Article 3 of the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, which states: “Law enforcement officials may use force only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty.”

The letter was signed by Ming Yu Hah, Amnesty International’s regional deputy director for East and Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

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