‘The Thai police force has a long and disturbing track record of using torture and other forms of ill-treatment to extract “confessions”’ - Champa Patel
The authorities in Thailand must ensure an independent, transparent and thorough examination of allegations of torture by police made by two men found guilty of the murder last year of the British tourists Hannah Witheridge and David Miller, Amnesty International said today.
Earlier today the Koh Samui Provincial court found Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Tun (also known as Wai Phyo) - both Burmese nationals - guilty of the murder of Ms Witheridge and Mr Miller in September 2014, sentencing them both to death. The pair’s defence team plans to appeal against the judgment.
Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Tun claimed that during their interrogation police tortured them - including by stripping, beating, kicking and issuing threats of electric shocks - to extract “confessions”. The presiding judge dismissed the allegations, stating that there was no evidence that torture took place, though without providing any further information.
In its own investigation of the case, the Thai National Human Rights Commission found the allegations of torture by the two men to be credible.
Amnesty International’s Southeast Asia and the Pacific Director Champa Patel said:
“The Thai authorities must ensure that any alleged confession or other statement obtained as a result of torture is not admitted as evidence in court in any retrial of the case, unless against those accused of torture to prove that the statement has been taken. This requires an independent investigation, which the police should certainly not be in charge of.
“The Thai police force has a long and disturbing track record of using torture and other forms of ill-treatment to extract ‘confessions’. This is far from an isolated case - the Thai authorities must start taking concrete steps to stamp out torture, not just paying lip service to doing so.
“We hope that the Thai authorities will ensure the truth in a retrial that respects international human rights law and standards, so that the families of Hannah Witheridge and David Miller get the justice and peace of mind they deserve.”
Concerns over death penalties
Meanwhile, Amnesty is deeply concerned by the court’s sentencing of the two defendants to death. Thailand has not carried out executions since 2009, and while the authorities have committed to moving towards abolition of capital punishment during 2015 the number of offences punishable by the death penalty has actually increased recently.
Champa Patel said:
“The death penalty is a violation of the right to life and the ultimate cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment. It has no proven effect of deterrence or reducing crime rates compared to other forms of punishment. The sentences must be immediately commuted, and Thailand should take immediate steps to abolish capital punishment from the books.”