Thai and French translations available below.
GENEVA, Switzerland, Friday, 26 November 2021 // Destination Justice has today filed an Urgent Action to the United Nations’ Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on behalf of Thai human rights defenders Mr. Parit Chiwarak (also known as “Penguin”) and Ms. Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul (also known as “Rung”).
The Urgent Action requests the United Nations body to declare Mr. Parit and Ms. Panusaya’s current arrest and detention as arbitrary and in violation of international law.
Destination Justice has also called upon the United Nations to request the Thai authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Parit and Ms. Panusaya and terminate all prosecutions and cases against them.
Mr. Parit and Ms. Panusaya are amongst the highest profile, most outspoken protesters in a mass protest movement in Thailand calling for socio-political change, including monarchic reform.
They have been repeatedly arrested and detained for participating in peaceful protests, expressing opinions, and otherwise exercising fundamental freedoms protected under international law.
Mr. Parit and Ms. Panusaya are currently being detained pending trial on charges including for lese-majesty under Criminal Code section 112, which has a sentence of up to 15 years.
Overall, Mr. Parit faces 43 trials and up to 300 years’ imprisonment and Ms. Panusaya faces 25 trials and up to 135 years’ imprisonment.
Moreover, a recent Thai Constitutional Court decision means that they may eventually charges of attempted insurrection for their human rights work, a crime which carries the death penalty.
The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is a Special Procedure of the United Nations Human Rights Council that investigates deprivation of liberty around the world. It can also intervene urgently where a person is detained arbitrarily in dangerous conditions or where there are other unique circumstances.
The Urgent Action has also been sent to the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on freedom of assembly and association, freedom of expression and opinion, and human rights defenders. All of these officials, together with the Working Group, have already expressed concern over the treatment of Thai protesters participating in the ongoing movement.
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ANNEX: Executive Summary of the Urgent Action
Mr. Parit Chiwarak and Ms. Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul are 22-year-old Bangkok-based Thai university students. They are being detained over their peaceful exercise of fundamental freedoms as amongst the highest profile, most outspoken protesters in a mass protest movement in Thailand calling for socio-political change, including monarchic reform.
Both have been arrested and indicted on charges including lese-majesty for participating in a protest on 19-20 September 2020 at Sanam Luang, with Ms. Panusaya also being detained over a 20 December 2020 protest at Siam Paragon that Mr. Parit also attended. For breaching bail conditions prohibiting them from exercising fundamental freedoms, they were detained and remanded in custody while their trials are ongoing. This is scheduled to be until at least December 2022. Taking into account past periods of detention, Mr. Parit has now been detained for 219 days overall and Ms. Panusaya for 81 days.
Mr. Parit and Ms. Panusaya’s human rights activities are situated within a broader movement of mass civilian protests. The Thai authorities have responded by shrinking the space for fundamental freedoms of expression and assembly (including by using Covid-19 as a pretext), which many States remarked upon at Thailand’s recent Universal Periodic Review.
Human rights defenders who peacefully call for socio-political change are also being judicially harassed through strategic lawsuits against public participation initiated by public and private actors. Mr. Parit faces 43 trials and up to 300 years’ imprisonment and Ms. Panusaya faces 25 trials and up to 135 years’ imprisonment (for lese-majesty alone). Moreover, following a 10 November 2021 Constitutional Council decision, future attempts by Mr. Parit or Ms. Panusaya to exercise fundamental freedoms may be met with charges such as attempted insurrection, which is a capital offence. Therefore, Mr. Parit and Ms. Panusaya could face the death penalty over their human rights work and a real possibility of actual execution.
Mr. Parit and Ms. Panusaya’s arrest and detention are arbitrary as they result from lawful exercise of fundamental freedoms of expression and opinion, assembly and association, and public participation (category II arbitrary detention). Their detention is also arbitrary due to partial non-observance of their right to a fair trial, including violations of the principle of legality, presumption of innocence, right to confidential communications with counsel, and right to adequate time to prepare a defence (category III arbitrary detention). Moreover, their arrest and detention are arbitrary as they represent discrimination based on their political opinions and status as human rights defenders advocating views deemed offensive by the authorities, for which they have been discriminatorily persecuted (category V arbitrary detention).
Finally, there are three unique circumstances warranting your intervention in this case as an urgent action. First, Mr. Parit and Ms. Panusaya may be imminently charged with capital offences, for which they could be expeditiously tried and even executed, posing a serious danger to their lives and representing an irreversible and egregiously unjust outcome. Second, their physical integrity is in danger due to detention conditions which expose them to the risk of contracting Covid-19 (which both have contracted in prison previously) and to attacks, surveillance, and harassment. Third, the apparently State-sponsored campaign of judicial harassment against them and prospect of interminable litigation and constant uncertainty over one’s fate also creates a significant threat to their psychological integrity amounting to inhumane treatment.
For the above reasons, Destination Justice calls on the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, together with other relevant UN special procedures, to, among other things, declare Mr. Parit and Ms. Panusaya’s detention arbitrary and ask the Thai authorities to immediately and unconditionally release them and terminate all prosecutions and cases against them.