FIDH-LMHR submission to UN HR Council

The space for civil society to conduct human rights activities remains non-existent in the Lao PDR, in breach of Article 22 of the ICCPR. Political groups other than the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party-backed organizations are banned. The government has routinely used its influence to manipulate the membership of civil society organizations’ boards and has forced some organizations to change their names to remove certain words, such as “rights.”

…Lao authorities continue to arbitrarily arrest and detain government critics and charge them under provisions of the Criminal Code. In many cases, little or no information is provided to those arrested on the reason for the deprivation of their liberty or the charges they face. Lao activists have been detained incommunicado without access to legal assistance, and held in prolonged pre-trial detention. This amounts to a clear violation of Article 9 of the ICCPR [see also below, Article 14].

…The government has continued to refuse to adequately and effectively address the issue of enforced disappearance in the country. To this day, the fate and whereabouts of at least 13 activists remain unknown. In the most emblematic case, the government has failed to conduct a thorough, credible, and impartial investigation into the enforced disappearance of prominent civil society leader Sombath Somphone, who disappeared after being last seen at a police checkpoint on a busy street in Vientiane on 15 December 2012.

Excerpts from the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) and Lao Movement for Human Rights (LMHR) submission to the List of Issues for the 121st session of the UN Human Rights Committee. The full submission is available here, and the Lao government report and other documentation here.

Continue reading “FIDH-LMHR submission to UN HR Council”

Few Surprised as Laos Fails to Win U.N. Rights Council Seat

Radio Free Asia: 29 October 2015

SB-Magsaysay-08
A 2005 photo of Sombath Somphone in the Philippines.

Laos failed attempt to win a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council in a secret vote in New York was greeted with relief on Thursday by a leading Lao human rights group, which urged the communist government to adhere to U.N. rights treaties before trying to join the council.

The secret ballot by the U.N. General Assembly in Wednesday saw Laos come up short for one of five vacant Asia-Pacific slots on the council, with those regional slots going to Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, the Philippines, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates.

The Paris-based Lao Movement for Human Rights told RFA’s Lao Service it would have been “most unfortunate” to see the authoritarian one-party government in Vientiane join the 47-member council.

“The Lao Movement for Human Rights believes the endless and shameless violation of Lao citizens’ rights by the Lao People’s Democratic Republic government as has been going on for years, is not appealing to attract enough votes from other member states,” said Vanida Thephsouvanh, president of the group. Continue reading “Few Surprised as Laos Fails to Win U.N. Rights Council Seat”

UN Special Rapporteurs: Draft CSO Decree would Violate International Law

UN LogoOn May 29th, The UN Special Rapporteurs on the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and the situation of human rights defenders sent a letter to the Lao government raising concerns regarding the draft decree on associations and foundations. Excerpts include:

…we would like to bring to the attention of your Excellency’s Government information we have received concerning a draft decree on associations and foundations which would violate international law and standards related to the right to freedom of association and the right to freedom of opinion and expression, if adopted without further changes.

Serious concern is expressed that numerous provisions contained in the draft Decree do not comply with international human rights law and standards pertaining to the freedom of opinion and expression and freedom of association including the ability for associations to operate freely without State’s undue interference.

The full letter is available here.

 

European Parliament Demands Clarification

Screen Shot 2013-02-01 at 22.53.08 PMThe 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.

UN rights experts urge Laos to step up missing activist probe

Business Standard: 17 December 2013

(AFP) UN human rights experts demanded today that Laos do more to reveal the fate a prominent activist who went missing a year ago, warning his disappearance could have a “chilling effect”.

Sombath Somphone, 62, went missing on December 15, 2012, when he was seen being led away by police in Vientiane after his car was stopped at a checkpoint.

CCTV images later emerged appearing to show him being driven away with two unidentified people.

“We are deeply concerned about his safety and security,” the UN working group on enforced or involuntary disappearances said in a statement.

It urged the Laos government to “do its utmost to locate Mr Somphone, to establish his fate and whereabouts, and to hold the perpetrators accountable.”

The experts said they wanted the Laos government to allow an independent body analyse the CCTV footage to help determine what had happened to the activist. Continue reading “UN rights experts urge Laos to step up missing activist probe”

Laos’ UN Human Rights Council ambitions

Please-return-SombathImagine a man thinking and discussing about development in his country — many people know him, a regular person like you and me.

Imagine he organises civil society meetings which are transparent and non-controversial, open to everyone – including his own government.

Imagine that he is stopped one night ten months ago at a police post and never reappears.

Imagine that the last images of him getting out of his car are caught on closed circuit TV and shown to his family – but that this original footage is never released for analysis.

Imagine European parliamentarians and others in the EU openly and repeatedly calling for this man’s return—but receiving no answer.

Imagine how other human rights activists in his country feel when they see this happening.

And imagine that this country will apply for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council in the near future.

The country is Laos, and the man is Sombath Somphone.

Katharine Derderian, Amnesty International EU Foreign Policy Officer. The full statement can be seen here.

ลาวเผชิญแรงต่อต้านการสมัครที่นั่งคณะมนตรีสหประชาชาติ

Bangkok Post: 29 ตุลาคม 2556

การที่รัฐบาลลาวเพิกเฉยต่อการหายตัวไปของนายสมบัด สมพอน ซึ่งเป็นนักกิจกรรม จะกลายเป็นอุปสรรคต่อความพยายามที่จะสมัครเข้าเป็นสมาชิกคณะมนตรีสิทธิมนุษยชนแห่งสหประชาชาติ (United Nations Human Rights Council) ทั้งนี้ตามความเห็นของสมาชิกรัฐสภาแห่งสหภาพยุโรป European Union – EU) เมื่อวานนี้

นายโซเรน ซอนเดอการ์ด (Soren Sondergaard) สมาชิกรัฐสภาแห่งสหภาพยุโรปกล่าวว่า ทางการลาวแจ้งกับเขาระหว่างไปเยือนประเทศซึ่งไม่มีทางออกทะเลว่า พวกเขาเสียใจเกี่ยวกับหายตัวไปของนายสมบัด แต่ทางการลาวไม่ได้แสดงท่าทีจะแก้ปัญหาเรื่องนี้เลย

เป็นเรื่องน่าเสียใจที่รัฐบาลลาวยังอยู่ในสภาพที่ปฏิเสธความรับผิดชอบ นายซอนเดอการ์ดจากเดนมาร์กกล่าว

แม้จะไม่เป็นที่ชัดเจนว่าเจ้าหน้าที่ของรัฐมีส่วนเกี่ยวข้องกับการหายตัวไปครั้งนี้หรือไม่ แต่รัฐบาลก็ต้องรับผิดชอบสืบสวนสอบสวนคดีนี้ เขากล่าว

คณะของนายซอนเดอการ์ดซึ่งประกอบด้วยที่ปรึกษาชาวเบลเยียม และนักกิจกรรมชาวอินโดนีเซีย เดินทางไปเยือนประเทศลาวเป็นเวลาสามวันเมื่อต้นสัปดาห์นี้

ทางคณะได้เข้าพบนายสายสมพน พรมวิหาน (Saysomphone Phomvilhane) รองประธานสภาแห่งชาติ นายสะยาแก่น สีสุวง ปลัดกระทรวงการต่างประเทศ และนายสีสะหวัด คำสาลี (Sisavath Khamsaly) รองอธิบดีกรมยุโรปและอเมริกา กระทรวงการต่างประเทศของลาว

นายสมบัดซึ่งเป็นผู้นำด้านการศึกษาและการพัฒนาที่ยั่งยืนและเป็นที่เคารพนับถืออย่างมากในลาว และยังเป็นผู้รับรางวัลรามอน แม็กไซไซ สาขาผู้นำชุมชนเมื่อปี 2005 ได้หายตัวไปในตอนค่ำของวันที่ 15 ธันวาคมเมื่อปีที่แล้วที่กรุงเวียงจันทน์

Continue reading “ลาวเผชิญแรงต่อต้านการสมัครที่นั่งคณะมนตรีสหประชาชาติ”

Laos faces rebuff in UN council seat push

Bangkok Post: 29 August 2013

The Lao government’s inaction on the disappearance of activist Sombath Sompone would hinder the country’s quest for membership of the United Nations Human Rights Council, a member of the European Union (EU) parliament said yesterday.

Soren Sondergaard, an EU parliamentarian, said Lao authorities told him during his recent visit to the land-locked country they felt sorry about Mr Sombath’s disappearancebut they did not seem to take any action on the matter.

It was a disappointment that the Lao regime remained in a state of denial, said Mr Sondergaard, from Denmark.

Although it was still unknown whether state officials were involved in his disappearance, it was the regime’s responsibility to investigate this case, he said.

Mr Sondergaard’s delegation, which included a Belgian adviser and an Indonesian activist, paid a three-day visit to Laos earlier this week.

The group met Saysomphone Phomvilhane, vice-president of the National Assembly; Sayakane Sisouvang, permanent secretary for foreign affairs; and Sisavath Khamsaly, deputy director-general of the Lao Foreign Ministry’s Department of Europe and America.

Mr Sombath, a well-respected leader in education and sustainable development in Laos and recipient of the 2005 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership, disappeared on the evening of Dec 15 last year in Vientiane. Continue reading “Laos faces rebuff in UN council seat push”