UN rights agency ‘appalled’ by Thailand’s lese majeste jailings
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UN rights agency ‘appalled’ by Thailand’s lese majeste jailings

The office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights says it is appalled at the long prison sentences given to people convicted in Thailand of insulting the monarchy, and is calling for the immediate release of all people jailed for exercising freedom of expression.

Its statement, released in Geneva, comes just four days after Thai military courts in separate cases gave prison sentences of 30 and 28 years, respectively, to a man and a woman for posting messages on Facebook found to have violated the lese majeste law.

(READ MORE: Thai military courts hand down record prison sentences for insulting monarchy)

“We are appalled by the shockingly disproportionate prison terms handed down over the past few months in lèse-majesté cases in Thailand,” said the UN’s statement issued in Geneva.

It added: “These are the heaviest sentences we have recorded since 2006, when we began documenting cases of individuals prosecuted for lese majeste offences for exercising the right to freedom of expression.”

Spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said the U.N. agency is urging the Thai government to amend the law to meet international human rights standards, declaring that it should not be used to smother public debate.

“We are also alarmed at the spike in harsh prison terms delivered in such cases by the military courts, which themselves fail to meet international human rights standards, including the right to a fair trial. Observers have been barred from entry and in many instances there is no option for appeal,” she said.

(READ MORE: Re-drawing the invisible line: Lèse majesté cases pile up under Thailand’s junta)

This was the latest UN strong statement concerning the lese majeste suits so far.

“Until the law is amended, such laws should not be used arbitrarily to curb debate on critical issues of public interest, even when it involves criticism of heads of state or government,” she said.

 Additional reporting from Associated Press