Laos: UN urges Government to ensure safe return of missing human rights defender

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Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

21 December 2012 – The United Nations today urged the Government of Laos to do everything possible to ensure that a prominent human rights defender who went missing a week ago is found safe and unharmed.

“We are concerned by what appears to be the enforced disappearance of Mr. Sombath Somphone,” the spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Rupert Colville, told reporters in Geneva.

“We are highly concerned for his safety and believe that his abduction may be related to his human rights work,” he added.

Mr. Somphone is the former director of the Participatory Development Training Centre, a non-governmental organization he founded in 1996 to promote education, training and sustainable development.

He was last seen on the evening of 15 December on his way home, according to OHCHR. Security camera footage reportedly shows that he was stopped at the police post in Vientiane, the capital, and was driven away in a car by men in civilian clothes. His family has been unable to locate him since then, despite repeated calls to the authorities and searches in the local area.

“We welcome the Government’s recent statement that a serious investigation is underway, and urge the authorities to do everything possible to ensure that Mr. Somphone is found safe and unharmed,” said Mr. Colville.

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