Isoc urged to drop charges against human rights defender and media outlet

The Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) has been urged to drop defamation charge against a human right defender who talked about his legal fight involving the alleged torture in military custody on the Thai PBS TV program.

The so-called Ad hoc Network to Civilian Protection and Freedom of Expression on Friday (March 2) issued a statement, signed by 38 organisations and 22 academics and social activists, demanding the Isoc Region 4 forward command to stop all forms of intimidation, including filing police complaints against citizens, human rights defenders and the media.

The network mentioned two recent criminal and civil charges against Ismael Tae, the founder of the Patani Human Right Organization and MGR Online news website for reporting about Mr Ismael’s case.

On Feb 14, the Isoc Region 4 forward command filed defamation charge against Mr Ismael for his comment made on the Thai PBS TV program “Policy By People” broadcasted on Feb 5.

Col Setthasit Kaewkoonmuang, senior legal officer of the Isoc Region 4 forward command, said after filing the complaint with Muang Pattani police station that Mr Ismael’s allegation that he was tortured in military custody in 2008 was groundless.

Col Setthasit strongly denied Mr Ismael and other human right groups’ reports that suspects were tortured in custody.

In the statement, the network said the defamation charge against Mr Ismael was an example of the authorities’ attempt to intimidate and stifle the right to freedom of expression which had been yearned for by the people.

“The enforcement of both special laws and criminal laws thus far has grossly failed to serve the intent of the laws which are supposed to protect fundamental rights and freedoms. Instead, this has led to an increase of infringement on personal rights and freedom of expression, which are protected by international laws,” the statement reads.

Earlier, the New York-based Human Right Watch also issued a statement demanding the Isoc to drop case against Mr Ismael.

Attempts by the military to use defamation complaints against the people were contrary to Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s so-called national human right agenda and his numerous promises to criminalize torture, the HRW said.