Thailand: Katherine Horton killing, concern at death sentences

Amnesty International expressed its concern at the sentencing to death in Thailand today of Wichai Somkhaoyai and Bualoi Posit for the rape and murder of the British national Katherine Horton on New Year's Day.

The judge in their case stated that he was handing down the most severe punishment on the basis of the inhumanity of the crime.

Amnesty International, which opposes the imposition of the death penalty in all circumstances, has urged the Thai authorities to impose a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the practice in law. It has also expressed fair trial concerns in this case.

Amnesty International said:

“The gravity of this crime warrants serious punishment, but not the inhumane punishment of the death penalty.

“The importance that all trials meet international standards of fairness is particularly highlighted in cases, including this one, where the death penalty, the final and irreversible punishment, may be applied.�

In this high-profile case, Amnesty International also believes that the speed of prosecution raises concern that the individuals may not have had time to mount an adequate defence.

Wichai Somkhaoyai and Bualoi Posit were tried, convicted and sentenced in just over a week after they were arrested.

In addition, reported statements by the Prime Minister prior to the trial calling for the imposition of the death sentence have had the potential to influence the fairness of this trial and its outcome.

The pair are reported to have confessed to the crime. Amnesty International has raised concern in the past at the emphasis placed on confessions as evidence in capital trials in Thailand, particularly because of the risk that torture may have been used to elicit them.

Amnesty International urged that Thailand’s Court of Appeals, which will automatically review this sentence, examine these issues. The organisation also urges the Thai authorities to act to ensure that due process is observed in all trials, particularly in capital cases.

To have a real impact on cases of violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights such as these, the Thai authorities will have to introduce a systematic programme of legislative and practical initiatives including full and fair investigation of all cases whatever the nationality of the victim or the profile of the perpetrator.

Amnesty International has raised concern with Thai authorities over a number of years at endemic weaknesses in the criminal justice system.

Among the concerns raised has been the slow pace of investigations into human rights violations and abuses, and long delays in trials. Torture or ill-treatment has frequently been used as a means of extracting information or confessions from criminal suspects.

If suspects admit guilt in capital cases their sentences are often reduced to life imprisonment. Those convicted also have the right to appeal to a higher court and to apply for royal clemency.

Many prisoners on death row are held continuously in metal shackles, in contravention of international standards.

To Amnesty International’s knowledge no executions have been carried out in Thailand since December 2003. Amnesty International urged that the authorities maintain this de facto moratorium.

There are more than 1,000 men and Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights on death row in Thailand. The sentences of 124 people - the majority for drug crimes - have been confirmed.

Find out more about our campaign against the Death Penalty...

Find out more about our campaign against the use of torture and ill-treatment... /b>

View latest press releases