Torture claims in Koh Tao murder case must be investigated: Amnesty

26 December 2015
Torture claims in Koh Tao murder case must be investigated: Amnesty
Myanmar migrant workers, who are accused of the killing of two British tourists, Zaw Lin (R) and Wai Phyo (L) are escorted by a Thai police officer after a court verdict sentenced them to death, at the Samui Provincial Court, on Koh Samui Island, southern Thailand, 24 December 2015. Photo: Rungroj Yongrit/EPA

Authorities in Thailand must ensure an independent, transparent and thorough examination of allegations of torture by police made by two Myanmar men who were found guilty of murder, Amnesty International said.
On December 24, the Koh Samui Provincial court found Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Tun, both Myanmar nationals, guilty of the murder of the British tourists Hannah Witheridge and David Miller in September 2014 and sentenced them to death. The pair’s defence team plans to appeal the judgment.  
Amnesty says the two Myanmar nationals claimed that during their interrogation police tortured them including by stripping, beating, kicking and threats of electric shocks to extract “confessions”. The presiding judge dismissed the allegations, stating that there was no evidence that torture took place, without providing any further information.
“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,” said Champa Patel, Amnesty International Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
“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.”
In its own investigation of the case, the Thai National Human Rights Commission found the allegations of torture by the two Myanmar nationals to be credible.
Amnesty International said it was "deeply concerned by the Court’s sentencing of the two defendants to death."
Thailand has not carried out any executions since 2009. While authorities have committed to moving towards abolition of capital punishment during 2015 the number of offences punishable by the death penalty has increased.
“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.” said Champa Patel.