Rights groups on Monday urged Southeast Asian nations to turn up the pressure on Laos over the disappearance of prominent activist Sombath Somphone who vanished from the streets of Vientiane two years ago.
Sombath, an award-winning campaigner for sustainable development, disappeared after he was pulled over at a police checkpoint in the Laos capital on the evening of December 15, 2012.
His case has cast a dark cloud over civil society in Laos, an impoverished tightly-controlled communist country, and raised the issue of impunity for powerful state and business interests held responsible for routinely killing or “disappearing” activists across the region.
A group of around 80 regional rights groups said the Laos government’s silence on Sombath was part of a strategy of “consigning to oblivion” crimes of enforced disappearance.
The pre-session for the Universal Periodic Review of the Lao PDR, organised by UPR-Info, was held on 03 December in Geneva. While the event was attended by 21 representatives from Geneva-based missions, just three organisations gave inputs from the floor.
Among these was the Mouvement Lao pour les Droits de l’Homme (MLDH) (Lao Movement for Human Rights, or ຂະບວນ ການ ລາວ ເພື່ອ ສິດທິ ມະນຸດ) who addressed; 1) Press freedom, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly; 2) Enforced disappearances, and; 3) Religious freedom.
In regard to enforced disappearances, the MLDH called on states to bring pressure on the Lao PDR to:
Ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Person from Enforced Disappearance without delay followed by a time-bound implementation.
Amend domestic laws to include specific provisions in line with the ICCPR, the CAT, and the ICPPED and implement them.
Accept ‘foreign experts’ assistance in examining evidence in the case of Sombath Somphone, including the closed circuit video taken on the night he was taken away in front of police authorities.
Investigate all cases of enforced disappearances in a transparent manner.
A pre-session for the Universal Periodic Review of the Lao PDR (scheduled for January, 2015) was held on 03 December in Geneva. While many international human rights organisations did not attend the session, a briefing paper summarising UPR submissions from some groups was compiled.
The summary includes the following recommendations:
Immediately undertake a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation, consistent with international standards, into the apparent enforced disappearance of Sombath Somphone, publicly release original images of the closed circuit television (CCTV) video of Sombath’s disappearance, and accept offers from foreign experts to assist in examining evidence, including the CCTV footage.
Implement the commitments made during the 2010 UPR, including by becoming a party to the ICPPED and incorporating all provisions of the various international human rights treaties to which the Lao PDR is a party.
Amend its Penal Law to provide for criminal liability for all acts of enforced disappearance and corresponding penalties accounting for the extreme seriousness of these acts.
Allow Ng Shui Meng, Sombath Somphone’s wife, to have access to files and findings of the investigation and other information to which she is entitled.
Provide Ng Shui Meng with access to an effective remedy and reparation for the enforced disappearance of her husband.
Undertake a thorough, impartial, and effective investigation into all allegations of enforced disappearances, including those related to the nine activists arrested on 2 November 2009 in connection with planned peaceful demonstrations calling for democracy, justice, and respect of their land rights.
Le gouvernement lao doit résoudre de manière urgente la question des droits fonciers et protéger les défenseurs des droits fonciers et droits de l’environnement, ont déclaré la FIDH et son organisation membre, le Mouvement Lao des Droits de l’Homme (MLDH).
« Les graves violations en matière des droits fonciers, la mauvaise gestion du gouvernement laotien et la corruption ont créé une nouvelle classe de pauvres dans les zones rurales. Tant que des lois ne seront pas appliquées correctement, les citoyens laotiens resteront des cibles vulnérables face aux violations des droits fonciers » a indiqué le président de la FIDH, Karim Lahidji. « Il est urgent de mettre en place un cadre juridique cohérent pour l’approbation et la gestion des concessions. Le gouvernement laotien doit réformer la gouvernance des terres afin de garantir une totale transparence et responsabilisation dans le processus de décisions ainsi que la participation des citoyens », a-t-il exhorté. Continue reading “Laos : Le Gouvernement exhorté à régler la question des droits fonciers et à protéger les défenseurs des droits”
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.
We, the undersigned 62 regional and international organizations, express outrage over the Lao Government’s ongoing failure to shed light on the enforced disappearance of prominent activist and civil society leader Sombath Somphone.
62 Non-governmental organizations have released a statement calling for a new investigation into the enforced disappearance of Sombath Somphone.
Signatories include NGOs from all ASEAN countries, except Brunei and Laos. The full statement is available in English here, and in Chinese here.
A number of international groups have called on European parliamentarians visiting Laos to maintain pressure to secure the release of Sombath Somphone. In part, the letter reads:
In line with the EU’s commitments to promote human rights through all its external actions, we call on you during your upcoming EP delegation visit to urge the Lao government to:
Ensure the safe and immediate return of Sombath Somphone.
Answer the many outstanding questions around Sombath’s disappearance and establish an independent commission to investigate the case.
Fully investigate the enforced disappearance of Sombath Somphone in a timely and transparent manner, appropriately prosecuting those responsible.
Address repression of civil and political rights, including freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly in Laos and ensure an enabling environment for civil society and human rights defenders.
Until Sombath Somphone is back safely with his family, his case will not be forgotten and calls for his return will persist.
París, 21 oct (EFE) La Federación Internacional de Derechos Humanos (FIDH) aprovechó hoy el encuentro que van a mantener este martes el presidente de Francia, François Hollande, con su homólogo de Laos, Choummaly Sayasone, para reclamar que se investigue el paradero de un activista desaparecido el pasado 15 de diciembre.
Sombath Somphone, de 62 años, fue visto por última vez en Vientiane, y aunque las autoridades de Laos niegan toda implicación en el asunto, existen imágenes de una cámara de videovigilancia, según la FIDH, en las que se ve cómo fue arrestado por la policía.
“Las autoridades de Laos tienen el deber absoluto de investigar sobre la desaparición de Somphone, conocido por su combate en favor de los más desfavorecidos y contra la corrupción”, dijo la ONG en un comunicado, que se sirve de la cobertura que va a tener la visita para llamar su atención sobre el caso.
Para ese organismo, “su desaparición forzada, en la que la policía está indudablemente implicada, deja a sus familiares y personas cercanas en el sufrimiento y la incertidumbre”, y a la sociedad laosiana en su conjunto, “ya aterrorizada”, “todavía más vulnerable”.
Hollande y Sayasone, según la agenda presidencial, está previsto que se reúnan mañana en París a las 10.00 hora local (08.00 GMT) en el Palacio del Elíseo, sede de la presidencia gala.