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Conviction of Thai editor undermines freedom of expression: Pillay

GENEVA (23 January 2013) - The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed Wednesday her deep concern about the verdict and extremely harsh sentencing of the editor and prominent activist Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, adding that this represents a setback for the protection and promotion of human rights in Thailand.

Somyot was convicted of lese-majesty offences for publishing two articles, which were considered as critical of the Monarchy, in his Voice of Takshin magazine. Earlier today, he was sentenced to 11 years in prison for the breach of Article 112 of the Criminal Code, which states that “whoever, defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.”

“The conviction and extremely harsh sentencing of Somyot sends the wrong signals on freedom of expression in Thailand. The court's decision is the latest indication of a disturbing trend in which lese-majesty charges are used for political purposes,” Pillay said.

“I welcome and support the efforts made by some parliamentarians and academics to propose amendments to article 112 in order to address concerns related to the application of the law,” she said.

The High Commissioner also expressed concern over the length of Somyot’s pre-trial detention, whose bail requests were denied 12 times by the courts. “I am disturbed that Somyot has been denied bail and presented in court on several occasions wearing shackles - as if he were some kind of dangerous criminal,” the High Commissioner said. “People exercising freedom of expression should not be punished in the first place,” Pillay said.

On 30 August 2012, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded that Somyot's detention was arbitrary and requested the Government of Thailand to take all necessary steps to “release Somyot Pruksakasemsuk and accord him an enforceable right to compensation” in accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Thailand is a party.*

“Activists, journalists and academics play a dynamic role in fostering Thailand’s human rights culture,” Pillay said. “This reflects positively on Thai society, but cases such as Somyot’s risk reversing the important progress made by Thailand.”

ENDS
*To find the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s opinion go to: http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G12/183/84/PDF/G1218384.pdf?OpenElement

For more information or media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org) or Cécile Pouilly (+ 41 22 917 9310 /cpouilly@ohchr.org)

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