Australian officials should press the government of Laos to respect human rights at the Australian-Laos human rights dialogue, scheduled for July 18-19, 2017, in Vientiane, Human Rights Watch said today in a submission to the Australian government. Key areas of concern in Laos are freedom of speech, association, and assembly; enforced disappearances; abusive drug detention centers; and repression of minority religious groups.
“The Lao government’s suppression of political dissent and lack of accountability for abuses stand out in a human rights record that is dire in just about every respect,” said Elaine Pearson, Australia director at Human Rights Watch. “As a major development partner of Laos, Australia can and should press for greater respect for basic rights.”
Restrictions on civil and political rights in Laos include draconian controls over freedom of speech, association, and peaceful assembly. The lack of fair trials of criminal suspects, widespread judicial corruption, and entrenched impunity for human rights violations are continuing problems, Human Rights Watch said. (more…)
JAKARTA — Southeast Asian lawmakers have called on Australian officials to press for improvements to the human rights situation in Laos when they meet with the Lao government for their fifth bilateral human rights dialogue tomorrow in Vientiane.
In a submission to the Australian government, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) urged members of the delegation to raise critical concerns about restrictions on civil society and fundamental freedoms with their Lao hosts, and called for further inquiry into the case of Lao civil society leader Sombath Somphone, who disappeared after being stopped at a police checkpoint in Vientiane in December 2012.
“The human rights situation in Laos continues to be abysmal. Since Sombath’s disappearance, the space for independent civil society in the country – already one of the most repressive in the region – has narrowed considerably. Meanwhile, the public as a whole remains deeply fearful of raising sensitive issues,” said APHR Chairperson Charles Santiago, a member of the Malaysian Parliament, who has made multiple visits to Laos since 2012 to inquire about Sombath’s disappearance, as well as the broader situation for civil society. (more…)
The rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly remained severely restricted. State control of media and civil society was tightened as Laos hosted international meetings. Repression of human rights defenders continued. Two prisoners of conscience were released in March after being held for almost 17 years.
There was no progress in the investigation into the enforced disappearance in 2012 of a
society member. The death penalty remained mandatory for serious drug offences. (more…)
The European Union (EU) must demand the Lao government release all political prisoners and make real progress towards solving all cases of enforced disappearances, FIDH and its member organization Lao Movement for Human Rights (LMHR) said today.
FIDH and LMHR made the call ahead of the 7th EU-Laos human rights dialogue, which is scheduled to be held in Vientiane on 16-17 February 2017. In conjunction with their call, the two organizations released a briefing paper that provides an update on the human rights situation in Laos since the previous dialogue, held in November 2015.
“After many fruitless rounds of human rights dialogues, the EU can no longer tolerate the Lao government’s deceptive tactics and its failure to uphold its human rights obligations. The EU must make it clear that the release of all dissidents and the transparent and thorough investigation of all cases of enforced disappearances, including Sombath Somphone’s, are conditions for the continuation of constructive bilateral relations,” said FIDH President Dimitris Christopoulos.
In a break with previous years, in November 2016, the EU failed to raise the issue of the enforced disappearance of prominent Lao civil society leader Sombath Somphone in its statement released on the occasion of the annual round table meeting between the Lao government and development partners. In addition, Sombath’s name was not mentioned in the joint statement issued at the conclusion of the 6th dialogue on 6 November 2015. His case was vaguely referred to as “the disappearance.”
“The EU’s failure to even mention Sombath Somphone’s name in its interaction with the Lao government plays into Vientiane’s strategy of seeking to relegate Sombath’s case to oblivion. If the human rights dialogue is not accompanied by any strong message it will remain a hopeless exercise,”said LMHR President Vanida Thephsouvanh.
In their joint briefing paper, FIDH and LMHR make specific recommendations to the EU to demand Laos show tangible progress with regard to: the right to freedom of opinion and expression; arbitrary detentions; enforced disappearances; the death penalty; and electoral reform.
Since its first human rights dialogue with the EU in 2005, Laos has consistently ranked near the bottom of many international indexes and rankings compiled by independent organizations that measure respect for democratic principles and key civil and political rights.
FIDH: Mr. Andrea Giorgetta (English) – Tel: +66886117722 (Bangkok)
Anne-Sophie Gindroz, ancienne directrice de Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation au Laos
Sombath Somphone en 2005. Il avait fondé l’ONG Padetc. Photo Bullit Marquez. AP
Fondateur d’une ONG de soutien aux paysans, le leader communautaire Sombath Somphone est porté disparu depuis quatre ans. Les autorités du Laos sont pointées du doigt pour leur autoritarisme et leur politique répressive.
Il y a quatre ans, le leader communautaire Sombath Somphone était enlevé devant un poste de police à Vientiane au Laos. C’était le 15 décembre 2012. Dans d’autres pays, la police lance généralement un appel au public pour rechercher la personne disparue. Pas au Laos où l’on vous intime de ne pas poser de questions. Dans d’autres pays, la police accueille favorablement toute aide. Pas au Laos où les offres d’assistance ont été systématiquement refusées. Dans d’autres pays, la population et les médias sont encouragés à diffuser l’information. Pas au Laos où les avis de recherche affichés ont été déchirés et la publication dans les journaux est soumise à autorisation spéciale. (more…)
(Bangkok) – The Lao government has made no progress accounting for civil society leader Sombath Somphone, who was forcibly disappeared on December 15, 2012, Human Rights Watch said today. Four years after he was stopped at a police checkpoint in the capital, Vientiane, the government needs to provide information on his fate or whereabouts.
“Since the start, the Lao government’s investigation of Sombath Somphone’s disappearance has been a pattern of delay, denial, and cover-up,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director. “Four years on, Sombath’s family is no closer to learning the truth about his fate than they were in the weeks after he went missing.”
A police closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera on the evening of his arrest shows police stopping Sombath’s jeep and leading him into the checkpoint. The footage shows unidentified individuals bringing Sombath out within minutes and putting him into another vehicle, which then drives away. Another individual later drives away in Sombath’s jeep.
Last December, Sombath’s family released new CCTV footage obtained from the same area as the police checkpoint that shows Sombath’s jeep being driven back to the center of Vientiane. At a minimum, this should have prompted a review of other CCTV cameras along the main route the car was taking back into the city.
There is no evidence of any serious government investigations into the enforced disappearance. Lao authorities have not organized a specific briefing on the status of the case for Sombath’s family since June 2013.
An enforced disappearance is defined under international law as the arrest or detention of a person by state officials or their agents followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty, or to reveal the person’s fate or whereabouts. Enforced disappearances inflict unbearable cruelty not just on the victims, but on family members, who often wait years or decades to learn of their fate. Under international law, “disappearances” are considered a continuing offense, one that is ongoing so long as the state conceals the fate or the whereabouts of the victim.
Laos signed the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in September 2008, but has yet to ratify it. International donor agencies should press the government to ratify the treaty and adopt national legislation to implement its requirements.
The government’s continued failure to seriously investigate cases of enforced disappearance violates its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Laos is a party. The covenant states that governments must provide an “effective remedy” for violations of basic rights, including the right to liberty and security of person.
“Over decades of his work in grassroots rural development, Sombath inspired thousands of Lao farmers and their families with simple yet innovative techniques to help them farm better and live better,” Robertson said. “But today, Sombath’s uncertain fate prompts fear among Lao civil society groups that their survival is at the whim of the government.”