The case of Sombath Somphone was discussed at a plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasboug today (7th February 2013). You can watch a video of the debate on YouTube.
The resolution was passed unanimously, with the following 9 points:
The European Parliament…
Expresses its deep concern about the disappearance, safety and well-being of Sombath Somphone;
Is concerned about the tardiness and lack of transparency of the investigation into the disappearance 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, and to ensure the immediate and safe return of Sombath Somphone to his family;
Calls on the HR/VP to closely monitor the Lao government’s investigations about the disappearance of Sombath Somphone;
Asks the Lao authorities to reaffirm publicly the legality and the legitimacy of the work for sustainable development and social justice, in order to counter the intimidation provoked by disappearances such as of Sombath Somphone;
Welcomes the visit of a group of ASEAN parliamentarians to Laos in January 2013 to seek information about Sombath Somphone and calls on the ASEAN Human Rights Commission to establish an inquiry Committee to investigate the events surrounding the enforced disappearance of Sombath Somphone;
Calls on the EU to put Laos among its priorities for the 22nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council;
Stresses that the Lao authorities should take all necessary steps to end the practice of arbitrary arrests and secret detention; calls on the Lao authorities to make enforced disappearance a criminal offense and to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance; stresses that enforced disappearances are clear violations of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms;
Calls on the Government of Laos to respect the rights of expression and association, the rights of minorities and protect the right to freedom of religion or belief ending all restrictions on the exercise of this right, as recommended at the UN Universal Periodic Review on 21 September 2010;
Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the ASEAN Secretariat, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Government and Parliament of Laos.
Urgent Appeal of Parliamentarians across Asia and Europe for Mr. Sombath Somphone
February 5, 2013
People’s Democratic Republic of Laos
Re: Request urgent investigation into the disappearance of Mr. Sombath Somphone
We, members of parliament across Asia and Europe, write to you deeply concerned about the safety and well-being of Mr. Sombath Somphone one of the most prominent Lao co-organizers of the Asia Europe People’s Forum 9, the founder and former Director of PADETC and one of the most respected and influential voices for sustainable people-centred and just economic and social development in Laos as well as in Asia.
Mr. Sombath Somphone has been missing since about 5 pm on Saturday December 15th 2012. His wife and colleagues last saw Mr. Sombath Somphone on December 15 at 5 pm when he left the PADETC office in Vientiane to go home. He left the office in his own car; his wife was in another car. He did not reach home and his family has had no news from or about him since then.
We are concerned about his safety, his state of health and his well-being.
We are aware that the International Organising Committee of the Asia Europe People’s Forum has worked intensively with Mr. Sombath Somphone over the last year. His contribution to the successful Asia Europe People’s Forum 9 in Vientiane on the 16-19 October was extremely significant, widely recognized and deeply respected. In addition he is a highly respected educationalist, inspiration for sustainable development and a recipient of the prestigious international Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership in 2005. He has dedicated his life to sustainable development and poverty reduction in the Lao PDR, and has contributed positively to numerous international processes, including the AEPF9. Mr. Sombath is an inspiration to development practitioners all over the world.
We are deeply concerned for Mr. Sombath’s safety and well-being and his disappearance is cause for great alarm.
We urge the Lao Government to immediately and urgently initiate an investigation into Mr. Sombath’s disappearance. And, we call on the government to undertake all actions necessary to ensure his immediate safe return to his family.
EU steps up pressure on Laos over activist’s disappearance
Straits Times, 01 Feb 2013
BANGKOK – The European Union has piled more pressure on Laos with a strong expression of concern over the disappearance in December last year of prominent Magsaysay Award winner Sombath Somphone.
In a one-hour meeting on Friday morning in Vientiane, senior European diplomats raised the issue with Laos’ Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith. “They also spoke for other like-minded countries – the United States, Switzerland, Japan and Singapore,” said a diplomatic source familiar with the meeting, known in diplomatic jargon as a démarche.
The 62-year-old Mr Sombath, who is married to a Singaporean national, is one of Laos’ most prominent civil society figures. His Participatory Development Training Centre was active in education, health and food security issues. He won the Magsaysay Award – Asia’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize – for Community Service in 2005. He is no firebrand, however; instead, he is known for his mild manner and his nuanced approach to sensitive issues.
He vanished on the evening of Dec 15. CCTV footage of the incident showed him pulling over in his jeep at a busy intersection in Vientiane and getting out to speak with police. Minutes later, a man on a motorbike pulled up and drove away in his jeep. Next, a big car with hazard lights flashing pulled up and Mr Sombath got in. He has not been heard from since.