The European Union and Laos have held the fifth round of their annual Working Group Human Rights and Governance meet in Brussels, a statement issued by the 28-member European bloc said Wednesday. The EU delegation was led by Anette Mandler, acting Director for Human Rights and Democracy in the European External Action Services. The Lao delegation was led by Phoukhong Sisoulath, Director General, Department of Treaties and Law, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Lao PDR Representative to the AICHR, Secretary-General to the Lao National Steering Committee on Human Rights. “It provided an opportunity to express concerns about the implementation of international standards in Laos and in the EU. It also allowed for a constructive exchange of experience about how to translate such standards into domestic practice,” the statement said.
In prelude to the 5th Lao-EU Working Group on Human Rights and Governance, The International Federation for Human Rights, together with the Lao Movement for Human Rights, have called on the European Union to increase pressure on the Lao government to meet its obligations and fulfill its international promises.
Despite accepting 115 of the 145 recommendations made by various States at its last Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in May 2010, the Lao government has failed to undertake any tangible efforts to reform or to turn any of the recommendations into concrete actions. Laos has also ignored the voluntary pledges it made during the same UPR session. In addition, the government continues to fail to comply with its legal obligations under several human rights treaties it ratified.
…The Lao government’s persistent reluctance to thoroughly investigate the enforced disappearance of Sombath Somphone and to obtain concrete commitments from the authorities to determine Sombath’s fate or whereabouts. The EU has already made numerous recommendations in this regard and it is fundamental that the Lao government addresses the issue of enforced disappearances as a matter of priority and puts an end to the climate of fear that prevents civil society from active participation in public affairs.
Thirteen months after the forced disappearance of civil society activist Sombath Somphone, the European Parliament issued a second resolution calling on the Lao government to “clarify the state of the investigation”, “to answer the many outstanding questions around [his] disappearance”, and “to seek and accept assistance from foreign forensic and law enforcement experts”.
The European Parliament reiterated its concern that ”the lack of reaction by the Lao government raises suspicions that the authorities could be involved in his abduction”. This second resolution was preceded by countless other private and public appeals from governments and their representatives around world.
Statements from international organizations, development agencies, civil society groups, and academics have also urged Lao authorities to find Sombath and return him safely to his family. Scores of reports and editorials by major international and regional news networks have added to the global chorus calling for accountability.
Expresses its deep concern regarding the disappearance, safety and wellbeing of Sombath Somphone;
Calls on the Lao authorities to undertake prompt, transparent and thorough investigations, in accordance with their obligations under international human rights law, to fully cooperate with UN bodies such as the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and to ensure the immediate and safe return of Sombath Somphone to his family;
Reiterates its call on the High Representative/Vice-President of the Commission to closely monitor the Lao Government’s investigations into the disappearance of Sombath Somphone;
Stresses that the Lao authorities should take all necessary steps to end the practice of arbitrary arrests and secret detention; calls on Laos to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance;
Calls on the Government of Laos to respect the rights of free expression and association and the rights of minorities, and to protect the right to freedom of religion or belief;
The full resolution, adopted by the European Parliament on 16 January 2014, can be seen here.
The European Parliament passed a resolution on Thursday, January 16th “…demanding clarifications on the investigation into the Sombath Somphone case in Laos.”
“MEPs demand a clarification of the state of the investigation into the Sombath Somphone case, considering that ‘the lack of reaction from the Lao Government raises suspicions that the authorities could be involved in his abduction’. MEPs also stress that ‘enforced disappearances remain a major impediment to Laos joining the UN Human Rights Council’.”
The press release is available in English and French. The full resolution can be found here. Video of interventions by parliamentarians can be seen here.
European partners regard the unexplained disappearance of Mr Sombath Somphone as a very serious matter. We express our grave concern regarding his safety and wellbeing. European partners regard the statements made by the Government of Lao PDR on this case as neither sufficient nor convincing. We call on the Government of Lao PDR to conduct a comprehensive and transparent investigation of this case…
The European Union has put the case of the prominent development worker Sombath Somphone back on the international agenda, threatening to review foreign aid to Laos after officials there failed to offer a credible explanation for his disappearance 11 months ago.
Speaking on Australian radio, Werner Langen, delegation leader and Chairman of the ASEAN delegation in the European Parliament, also said Laos could become isolated in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) if the human rights situation in the country fails to improve.
Seit fast einem Jahr ist der laotische Aktivist Sombath Somphone spurlos verschwunden. Seine Frau hofft, dass er noch lebt. Die EU fordert die Aufklärung des Falls. Und stößt in Vientiane vor allem auf Ausreden.
“Ich halte mich an der Hoffnung fest, dass Sombath noch am Leben ist. Etwas anderes möchte ich einfach nicht glauben. Ohne diese Hoffnung könnte ich nicht weitermachen.” Seit dem 15. Dezember 2012 hat Ng Shui Meng ihren Ehemann nicht mehr gesehen. An diesem Tag, einem Samstag, wird Sombath Somphone in der laotischen Hauptstadt Vientiane verschleppt. Auf offener Straße, an einem Polizeicheckpoint – und vor laufender Überwachungskamera. Nach einer Polizeikontrolle wird er von zwei unbekannten Männern in einem weißen Truck davon gefahren, sein eigenes Auto, ein Jeep, wird von einer weiteren Person vom Tatort entfernt. Seitdem fehlt von dem bekannten Aktivisten, der sich über Jahrzehnte unter anderem für Bildung, für die Rechte der Landbevölkerung und für die Umwelt einsetzt, jede Spur.
It’s almost 11 months ago since the disappearance of the internationally-recognised development worker and teacher, Sombath Somphone.
And for the second time this year, a European delegation has visited Laos to press authorities on the case of the missing activist, but they say little progress has been made.
Presenter: Tom Maddocks
Speakers: Soren Sondergaard, delegation leader (August) and member of the European parliament; Werner Langen, delegation leader (October) and Chairman of the ASEAN delegation in the European Parliament; Rupert Abbott, Laos researcher, Amnesty International
MADDOCKS: In August, a European parliamentary delegation drew the conclusion that Lao authorities were “still in a state of denial” about the disappearance of Sombath Somphone.
The delegation was led by Danish member of parliament Soren Sondergaard.
BANGKOK (October 28) — ASEAN Parliamentarians today called on a European Parliament delegation to Vientiane to persevere with collective efforts to secure the safe return of Lao civil society activist Sombath Somphone, the victim of an enforced disappearance last year.
CCTV footage shows Sombath was last seen with local police in the Lao capital Vientiane on December 15, 2012. He has not been seen since and ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) has expressed both publicly and privately over the past 10 months the perceived failure of the Lao authorities in their sincerity to properly investigate his disappearance.