There is no valid excuse not to ratify the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance

OHCHR: 29 August 2017

(Note: The Lao PDR has twice promised to ratify this convention in its Universal Periodic Review, but it has not yet done so.)

At a time when enforced disappearance is practiced in every region, and in many countries is increasing, a group of UN human rights experts* urge all Member States to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

To mark the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, the UN experts highlight: “It is inadmissible that in 2017, enforced disappearances continue to happen. Every day we receive new cases of persons subjected to enforced disappearances across the world. When this happens, the life of entire families breaks in pieces and the very fabric of the society is damaged. This needs to end, and by ratifying the Convention, States can start the path towards achieving this aim”.

“There is no valid excuse for this Convention not to become universally ratified,” said Suela Janina, Vice-Chair of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances. “Following the ratification, States should introduce new legislation and ensure its application in practice”. (more…)

Rights Groups Call for International Community to Press Laos on Jailed Activists

Voice of America: 26 June 2017

BANGKOK-Human rights groups say the international community, including the United Nations, needs to press Lao authorities on human rights issues.

The calls come amid a string of harsh jail terms handed down by Lao courts against critics of the Communist government.

Rights groups point to Laos’ failures in taking “significant steps to remedy” a poor human rights record and tough restrictions on freedom of speech, association and assembly.

Three Lao migrant workers were recently sentenced to jail terms of between 12 and 20 years for comments posted on social media while in Thailand and because they attended a protest outside the Lao Embassy in Bangkok.

The three — two men, Somphone Phimmasone, Soukan Chaithad and a woman, Lodkham Thammavorg — were arrested when they returned to Laos after posting the messages critical of the Laos government on social media in Thailand. (more…)

Where is Sombath? Where is the UPR?

The last Universal Periodic Review for the Lao PDR was held in January, 2015.

Seventy-two states made 203 recommendations, and the Lao government accepted 119 of them.

Ninety-three of those accepted recommendations called for a specific action, yet nearly two and one-half years later, and half-way until the next review, authorities have yet to release their plan for follow-up.

And while civil society organisations often play important roles in the follow-up and monitoring of the UPR implementation, those in Laos are apparently obliged to wait for the government plan.

 

ASEAN in Laos: Challenges of Leadership, Human Rights & Democracy

Press conference held at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Thailand on 31 August, 2016, Bangkok 

RFA-FCCT-2016

Panelists included (click on link for their presentation):

  • Shui Meng Ng, Spouse of Sombath Somphone
  • Walden Bello, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights
  • Laurent Meillan, Acting Regional Representative of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

With moderation by Phil Robertson, Deputy Director of the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch.

Video of the press conference is available in three segments: One, two & three.

The following press briefings were also distributed:

Obama urged to press Laos on human rights at regional summit

Reuters: 31 August 2016

Activists have called on U.S. President Barack Obama to press Laos on its human rights record on issues such as illegal land concessions and forced evictions, when he visits the Communist country next week.

Obama is due to attend a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the capital Vientiane, becoming the first U.S. president to visit Laos.

Campaigners urged Obama to use a bilateral meeting with Laos President Bounnhang Vorachith to discuss issues ranging from environmental contamination to the fate of prominent Lao human rights activist Sombath Somphone, who disappeared in 2012.

“We see this visit to Laos as a human rights test for President Obama and his administration,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division.

“Are they prepared to come to Southeast Asia and speak publicly about the disappearance of such a prominent person as Sombath Somphone and talk about the ongoing rights violations that are taking place in Laos?” Robertson asked.

Sombath, a U.S.-educated activist focusing on rural development, went missing in Vientiane on Dec. 15, 2012. A video previously released by the authorities shows him being stopped at a police checkpoint before being led into a pickup truck.

Laos maintains the state is not involved in Sombath’s disappearance and police are still investigating, said Sombath’s wife Shui Meng Ng, adding that she has not had an update from police in more than two years.

Sombath’s disappearance and harassment of civil society members has had a “chilling effect” on freedom of expression, with many self-censoring over fears they will be punished, said Laurent Meillan, the acting regional representative of the U.N. Office for the High Commission of Human Rights.

Meillan also expressed concern about large scale development projects and land concessions impacting the rights of local communities.

According to HRW’s Robertson, the Lao government told civil society groups ahead of the ASEAN meeting that it would not permit various subjects to be discussed.

These include Sombath’s disappearance, hydropower projects, land issues or the rights of indigenous and LGBT people, he said.