Archive for ‘human rights group,’

March 6, 2015

Australia: Press Laos to Respect

Australia: Press Laos to Respect Rights

Rights Respond on Sombath Somphone; Set Strong Benchmarks for Reform in Dialogue

March 2, 2015

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“Australia should make sure that this human rights dialogue doesn’t become just an exercise in empty rhetoric. It’s an opportunity to really press the Lao government on sensitive issues and demand meaningful outcomes.” Elaine Pearson, Australia director

(Sydney) – Australia should use its upcoming human rights dialogue with Laos to raise human rights concerns and set concrete benchmarks for reform, Human Rights Watch said today. The dialogue, scheduled to be held in Canberra on March 5, 2015, is a crucial opportunity to push the government of Laos to take real action on rights ahead of Laos chairing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2016.

In a submission to the Australian government, Human Rights Watch urged officials to raise concerns with their Lao counterparts about the enforced disappearance of prominent civil society leader Sombath Somphone, increased restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly, violations of labor rights, and abusive drug detention centers.

“Australia should make sure that this human rights dialogue doesn’t become just an exercise in empty rhetoric,” said Elaine Pearson, Australia director. “It’s an opportunity to really press the Lao government on sensitive issues and demand meaningful outcomes.”

This is the fourth such dialogue with Laos, and the first one to be held in Australia. Australia committed funding from 2012 to 2015 to support the Lao government’s human rights activities. The Australian government should review all assistance in funding, programming, and activities in Laos to ensure that it is not contributing to policies and programs that violate human rights.

Laos has repeatedly responded with silence or denial to all questions about the enforced disappearance of Sombath Somphone in Vientiane in December 2012. He was last seen on the evening of December 15, 2012, in Vientiane. Lao public surveillance CCTV footage revealed that police stopped Sombath’s car at a police post. Within minutes after being stopped, unknown individuals forced him into another vehicle and drove away. Analysis of the video shows that Sombath Somphone was taken away in the presence of police officers who witnessed the abduction and failed to intervene – a fact that strongly suggests government complicity.

Australia should use this opportunity to press Lao for information about his fate or whereabouts. At the United Nations Human Rights Council review of Laos in Geneva in January 2015, Australia had called for a credible investigation into Sombath Somphone’s enforced disappearance and raised concerns about Internet censorship and shrinking space for civil society on human rights.

Australia should back up its public statements at the Human Rights Council with strong public and private messages at the human rights dialogue. The Lao government has been intensifying its crackdown on freedom of speech, association, and assembly. In September 2014, the government adopted a restrictive Internet decree that sharply limits the types of information that can be shared, effectively expanding government interference and control. Australia should encourage the government of Laos to reform this decree to ensure that it aligns with international standards protecting freedom of speech and expression.

The Lao government violates the right to freedom of association for workers both in law and in practice. All unions must be part of the government-controlled Lao Federation of Trade Unions. Subsequently, all workers are prohibited from establishing or joining a trade union of their choosing. Australia should get a firm commitment from the Lao government to amend the Trade Union Act and the Labor Act to bring them into full compliance with international labor standards.

The Lao government also maintains a system of drug detention centers, where people suspected of using drugs, beggars, homeless people, children, and people with mental illness are held without a court ruling, judicial oversight, or an ability to appeal. Australia should urge Laos to commit to closing all drug detention centers and carry out prompt investigations into allegations of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment in these centers.

“Australia should make its dialogues with Lao worthwhile by issuing public statements of outcomes that set clear benchmarks for improvement,” Pearson said. “If Laos wants Australia’s continuing support on human rights, it needs to answer where Sombath Somphone is, commit to measurable changes, and show signs of genuine reform.”

January 21, 2015

Laos, Hmong NGO Coalition Appeals to United Nations Human Rights Council to Sanction Lao Government Over Egregious Violations

Press Release

Laos, Hmong NGO Coalition Appeals to United Nations Human Rights Council to Sanction Lao Government Over Egregious Violations

January 20, 2015,

Washington, D.C., Geneva, Switzerland, and Vientiane, Laos

Center for Public Policy Analysis

The Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA) and a coalition of non-governmental organizations, including prominent Lao and Hmong human rights groups, is appealing to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva to sanction and condemn the government of Laos during its pending Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the country’s human rights practices.  The NGOs have released a ten-point (10 point) appeal to the member nations of the United Nations Human Rights Council slated to convene in Geneva today to take up the review of Laos’ controversial human rights record.

“Because of the important Universal Periodic Review of Laos’ deplorable and egregious human rights violations by the United Nations in Geneva, a coalition of non-governmental organizations, and Lao and Hmong human rights groups, are appealing to the member nations of the UN’s Human Rights Council  to vigorously hold the government of Laos, and its military and communist leaders, fully accountable for a myriad of serious and systemic human rights abuses,” said Philip Smith, Executive Director of the CPPA in Washington, D.C. “Some of the leaders in Laos are clearly guilty of crimes against humanity, up and above their horrific human rights violations.”

“The one-party Marxist government in Laos, which is a de facto military junta run by the Lao People’s Army, continues to systematically engage in enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings of political and religious dissidents as well as minority peoples, including the ethnic Hmong,” Smith stated. “The Lao government’s ongoing, and intimate, military and diplomatic relationship with North Korea is also deeply troubling and has resulted in the brutal forced repatriation by Laos of North Korean refugees back to the Stalinist regime in Pyongyang that the asylum seekers have fled.”

Smith continued: “We are calling upon the Lao government to immediately provide unfettered, international access to missing civic leader Sombath Somphone and well as prominent Laotian and Hmong political dissidents,  including the leaders of the Lao Students’ Movement for Democracy who have been imprisoned for over 15 years after leading peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations in Vientiane in 1999.   We are also very concerned about numerous Hmong refugee leaders, forcibly repatriated from Thailand to Laos in recent years, as well as notable opposition leaders, such as Moua Ter Thao, who have disappeared into the Lao prison and gulag system, and who also appear to have been subject to enforced disappearances at the hands of Lao military and security forces.”

“The continued persecution, and extrajudicial killing of Lao and Hmong refugees and asylum seekers in the jungles of Laos, as well as horrific religious freedom violations against Hmong Christian and animist believers, are serious human rights violations that the United Nations in Geneva should hold the Lao government accountable for, and call their leaders forward to address,” said Vaughn Vang, Executive Director of the Lao Human Rights Council, Inc. (LHRC). “The Lao military is still heavily engaged in ethnic cleansing and large-scale illegal logging operations, involving military attacks and starvation of Hmong civilians, driving more and more minority peoples from their ancestral lands, including the Hmong people, who are still being forced from the mountains and the jungles of Laos, where their only option is to flee to Thailand, and other third countries, to seek asylum from persecution and death.”

The following is the text of the ten-point appeal to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva:

We appeal to the member nations of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to vigorously press the Lao government and military on its repeated and deplorable human rights violations.  We request that the member nations of the UNHRC hold the authorities in Laos, and the Lao government and military, accountable for their egregious human rights violations, which must be condemned by the international community, and we further petition Laos to:

1.)1.) Provide immediate and unconditional international access to arrested civic activist Sombath Somphone, and all information related to his arrest and imprisonment;

2.) 2.) Provide immediate and unconditional international access to arrested student activist leaders of the Lao Students’ Movement for Democracy who were arrested following peaceful, pro-democracy protests in Vientiane, Laos, in October of 1999;

  1. 3.) Provide immediate and unconditional international access to all Lao Hmong refugee camp leaders of the Ban Huay Nam Khao (Huai Nam Khao) refugee camp in Thailand who were forcibly repatriated from Thailand to various camps and sites in Laos, including secret locations, in 2009;

4.)4.)  Stop the Lao military’s ongoing attacks against civilians, and illegal logging, especially in highland and minority populated areas; Provide immediate and unconditional access to international human rights monitors and independent journalists, to closed military zones, and military-controlled areas in Laos, where deforestation, illegal logging, military attacks, enforced starvation, and human rights violations continue against vulnerable minority peoples in Laos, including the ethnic Hmong people;

5.)5.)   Cease religious persecution of Laotian and Hmong religious believers, including Animists, Christians, Catholics and other faiths, who seek to worship freely, and independent of Lao government monitoring and control;

6.) 6.) Cease the forced repatriation of North Korean refugees and asylum seekers who have fled political and religious persecution in North Korea to Laos and Southeast Asia;

7.)7.) Provide immediate and unconditional international access, especially to human rights monitors and attorneys, as well as independent journalists, to various high-profile Hmong-Americans imprisoned, or subject to enforced disappearance, in Laos, including Hakit Yang, of St. Paul, Minnesota, and his colleagues;

8.)8.) Provide immediate and unconditional international access, especially to human rights monitors and attorneys, as well as independent journalists, to the high-profile Hmong opposition and resistance leader  Moua Toua Ter recently repatriated from Thailand to Laos in 2014;

  1. 9.) Provide immediate and unconditional international access, especially to human rights monitors and attorneys, as well as independent journalists, to the two imprisoned Hmong translators, and alleged Hmong opposition members, who allegedly accompanied European journalist Thierry Falise, French cameraman Vincent Reynaud, and their American translator and guide, Rev. Naw Karl Mua in 2003, during their investigation into the Lao military’s persecution and attacks against the Hmong people, as documented by the Committee to Protect Journalists;

10)10.) Provide information, the whereabouts, and the fate of the accused Ban Vang Tao ( Vang Tao /Chong Mek border crossing point) alleged resistance and opposition leaders, and their alleged accomplices,  reportedly involved in the July 2000 cross border attack on a Lao government customs post; International access should be granted to these individuals who were forcibly repatriated from Thailand to Laos prior to their trial, and court proceedings, in Thailand, as documented by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); We are concerned about credible reports that these Lao citizens have been subjected to enforced disappearance, torture and extrajudicial killing by the Lao government;  We request that the Lao government provide immediate and unconditional international access by human rights attorneys and international journalists to the accused Laotians who were unfairly denied a court trial in Thailand on the Ban Vang Tao case, since there is no independent judiciary or independent news media in Laos.

The ten-point appeal to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva was issued by the CPPA, LHRC, United League for Democracy in Laos, Inc., Lao Students’ Movement for Democracy, Laos Institute for Democracy, Lao Hmong Students Association, Hmong Advance, Inc., Hmong Advancement, Inc., Lao Veterans of America, Inc., and others.



Jade Her or Philip Smith

Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA)

Tele. (202) 543-1444

2020 Pennsylvania Ave., NW

Washington, DC 20006, USA

January 19, 2015

Laos: Pledge Action on Rights, Stop ‘Disappearances’

January 19, 2015

Laos: Government’s failure to live up to its UPR commitments calls for more international pressure

19 January 2015

Laos: Government’s failure to live up to its UPR commitments calls for more international pressure

Paris, 19 January 2015: The Lao government’s clear and undeniable failure to live up to its human rights commitments calls for more political pressure by the international community, FIDH and its member organization, the Lao Movement for Human Rights (LMHR), said today. The two organizations made the call ahead of the second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Laos, which will take place on 20 January in Geneva.

“Pouring increasing amounts of aid into Laos while remaining silent on the serious human rights violations taking place in the country just hasn’t worked,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji. “It’s time for the international community to start applying real political pressure on the government to ensure it addresses human rights issues and undertakes genuine legislative and institutional reforms.”

Laos accepted 115 of the 145 recommendations made by other countries at its first UPR in May 2010. Despite committing to ratifying or acceding to five key international human rights instruments, Laos has become a party to only one of them – the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Six years after its signature, Laos has not yet ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED). In addition, the government has failed to adequately investigate most cases of enforced disappearances. This includes the failure to investigate the disappearance of prominent civil society leader and human rights defender Sombath Somphone on 15 December 2012 in Vientiane.

Laos also pledged cooperation with UN human rights mechanisms. However, in the past five years, the government has neither issued any standing invitation for missions to Laos nor allowed any official visit to the country by the UN special procedures. In addition, five reports to main UN treaty bodies are overdue – one of them by nearly six years.

In stark contrast to its UPR pledges to make progress toward combating trafficking in persons and ensuring the enjoyment of the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association, and freedom of religion, key indicators point to a lack of improvement in the situation in these areas.

After placing Laos on its ‘Tier 2’ for three consecutive years, in 2014 the US State Department downgraded the country to the “Tier 2 watch list” (the second-lowest tier) for the government’s failure to fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking.

Laos ranked 168th out of 178 countries surveyed by Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) in its 2010 Press Freedom Index. In the 2014 Index, it ranked 171th out of 180.

Freedom House has consistently rated the Laos as ‘not free’ in its annual global survey on political rights and civil liberties. Recently-enacted legislation adds to a body of repressive laws that severely restrict the people’s enjoyment of their civil and political rights. Decree 327, adopted on 16 September 2014, contains excessively broad and vaguely-worded provisions that effectively criminalize any online criticism of the government and fall well below international standards on the right to freedom of expression. In addition, the disappearance of Sombath has had a ‘chilling effect’ on civil society in the country. Local organizations are unwilling to speak out against human right violations and to carry out activities for the protection and promotion of human rights because they are afraid of reprisal from the authorities.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has placed Laos on its “watch list” (Tier 2) since 2009. In its 2014 annual report, the USCIRF stated that serious religious freedom abuses continued, particularly in ethnic minority areas, and restrictive laws remained in place.

With regard to land rights, in their joint submission for the UPR, FIDH and LMHR detailed the serious and far-reaching human rights implications of large-scale land leases and concessions granted by the government in recent years. The two organizations also documented the government’s repression of land and environmental rights defenders who worked with communities affected by land concessions and advocated for a more sustainable and all-inclusive form of socio-economic development.

“The Lao government has said that the UPR is the only legitimate process to address human rights at the international level,” said LMHR President Vanida Thepsouvanh. “Regrettably, the government has virtually ignored most of the recommendations it accepted at its first UPR almost five years ago.”

Press contacts
FIDH: Mr. Andrea Giorgetta (English) – Tel: +66 88 611 7722 (Bangkok)
FIDH: Mr. Arthur Manet (French, English, Spanish) – Tel: +33 6 72 28 42 94 (Paris)
FIDH: Ms. Audrey Couprie (French, English, Spanish) – Tel: +33 6 48 05 91 57 (Paris)


Laos - 01

19 Janvier 2015

Laos : Le non respect des engagements pris par le gouvernement à l’EPU appelle à plus de pression internationale

Paris, le 19 Janvier 2015 : L’échec, manifeste et incontestable, du gouvernement lao à tenir ses engagements en matière de droits appelle à plus de pression politique de la communauté internationale, ont déclaré aujourd’hui la FIDH et son organisation membre, le Mouvement Lao pour les Droits de l’Homme (MLDH). Les deux organisations ont lancé cet appel à la veille du deuxième examen périodique universel (EPU) du Laos, qui se tiendra le 20 Janvier à Genève.

« Verser des sommes croissantes d’aide au Laos tout en restant silencieux sur les graves violations des droits humains qui ont lieu dans le pays ne peut simplement pas fonctionner » , a déclaré président de la FIDH Karim Lahidji. « Il est temps pour la communauté internationale de commencer à appliquer une vraie pression politique sur le gouvernement pour s’assurer qu’il aborde les questions des droits humains et s’engage à de véritables réformes législatives et institutionnelles. »

Le Laos a accepté 115 des 145 recommandations formulées par d’autres pays à sa première EPU en mai 2010. Malgré ses engagements à ratifier ou accéder à cinq instruments internationaux clés des droits de l’homme, le Laos est devenu seulement partie prenante d’un seul d’entre eux : la Convention contre la torture et autres peines ou traitements cruels, inhumains ou dégradant.

Six ans après l’avoir signé, le Laos n’a pas encore ratifié la Convention Internationale pour la Protection de toutes les Personnes contre les Disparitions Forcées. En outre, le gouvernement a manqué d’enquêter de manière adéquate la plupart ces cas de disparitions forcées. Ceci inclut son échec à enquêter sur la disparition d’un proéminent leader de la société civile et défenseur des droits de l’homme, Sombath Somphone, survenu le 15 décembre 2012 à Vientiane.

Le Laos a également promis de coopérer avec les mécanismes des droits de l’homme des Nations Unies. Cependant, au cours des cinq dernières années, le gouvernement n’a émis aucune invitation permanente pour les missions au Laos, ni autorisé de visite officielles dans le pays aux procédures spéciales de l’ONU. En plus, cinq rapports principaux pour les organes de traités des Nations Unies sont en retard, dont un de presque six ans.

En contraste flagrant avec ses engagements auprès de l’EPU à faire des progrès dans la lutte contre la traite des personnes et de garantir la jouissance des droits à la liberté d’expression, la liberté d’association et la liberté de religion, les principaux indicateurs font état d’une absence d’amélioration de la situation dans ces domaines.

Après avoir placé le Laos dans la catégorie « Tier 2 » pendant trois années consécutives, en 2014, le Département d’Etat américain a abaissé le pays à “Tier 2 liste à surveiller” (le deuxième plus bas niveau) pour l’échec du gouvernement à se conformer pleinement aux normes minimales pour l’élimination de la traite des êtres humains.

Le Laos était classé 168e sur 178 pays par Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) dans son Indice de liberté de la presse en 2010. Dans l’indice 2014 de RSF, il est classé 171 sur 180.

Freedom House a toujours évalué le Laos comme ‘’non libre’’ dans son enquête mondiale annuelle sur les droits politiques et les libertés civiles. Une législation récemment adoptée vient rajouter un ensemble de lois répressives qui limitent gravement la jouissance du peuple de leurs droits civils et politiques. Le décret 327, adoptée le 16 Septembre 2014, contient des dispositions formulées en des termes extrêmement larges et vagues qui criminalisent efficacement toute critique sur internet du gouvernement et qui tombe bien en dessous des normes internationales relatives au droit à la liberté d’expression. En outre, la disparition de Sombath a eu un effet dissuasif sur la société civile dans le pays. Les organisations locales ne sont guère disposées à dénoncer les violations des droits et de mener des activités de protection et de promotion des droits humains parce qu’ils ont peur de représailles des autorités.

La Commission Américaine sur la Liberté Religieuse Internationale (USCIRF) a placé le Laos sur sa ‘’liste à surveiller’’ (Tier 2) depuis 2009. Dans son rapport annuel de 2014, USCIRF a déclaré que de graves violations de la liberté religieuse ont continué, notamment dans les régions des minorités ethniques, et que les lois restrictives restent en vigueur.

Concernant les droits fonciers, dans leur soumission conjointe pour l’EPU, la FIDH et le MLDH ont détaillé les graves et profondes implications sur les droits de l’homme dues aux baux et concessions de terres à grande échelle accordés par le gouvernement au cours des dernières années. Les deux organisations ont également documenté la répression du gouvernement sur les terres et les défenseurs des droits environnementaux qui ont travaillé avec les communautés touchées par les concessions foncières et a plaidé pour une forme de développement socio-économique plus durable et inclusive.

« Le gouvernement lao a dit que l’EPU est le seul processus légitime pour aborder les droits de l’homme au niveau international. Malheureusement, le gouvernement a quasiment ignoré la plupart des recommandations qu’il a acceptées lors de son premier EPU il y a près de cinq ans » , a déclaré la présidente du MLDH, Vanida Thephsouvanh.

Contacts Presse
FIDH : M. Andrea Giorgetta (Anglais) – Tel : +66 88 611 7722 (Bangkok)
FIDH : M. Arthur Manet (Français, Anglais, Espagnol) – Tel : +33 6 72 28 42 94 (Paris)
FIDH : Ms. Audrey Couprie (Français, Anglais, Espagnol) – Tel : +33 6 48 05 91 57 (Paris)

December 23, 2014

Laos: UN experts appeal for help to probe two-year-old disappearance of rights defender

Laos: UN experts appeal for help to probe two-year-old disappearance of rights defender

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An ethnic Hmong woman in Ban Houythao, Laos, where most people depend on the land for their livelihoods. Photo: IRIN/Martin Abbiati

23 December 2014 – International support is now needed to investigate the enforced disappearance of leading Laotian human rights defender Sombath Somphone, who was last seen in December 2012, a group of United Nations independent experts urged today.

“It is high time for the authorities of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic to voluntarily request international assistance with the aim of shedding light on Mr. Somphone’s fate and whereabouts, two years after his disappearance,” the experts said in a news release.

“International law makes clear that the Government of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic has the duty to carry out an independent, thorough, credible and effective investigation,” they added.

Mr. Somphone is a prominent human rights activist working on issues of land confiscation and assisting victims in denouncing such practices. He was last seen at a police checkpoint with his car parked in the police compound.

“We urge the authorities to release more information about the progress of investigation, especially to his family,” the experts stressed. “In the absence of any tangible progress, we strongly recommend that an international team of experts work jointly with the Lao People’s Democratic Republic to fulfil its legal obligations.”

“We also encourage all States to offer their support to the Government of Lao PDR to ensure that the disappearance of Mr. Somphone is thoroughly investigated,” the experts added.

The situation of human rights in Laos is due to be assessed next month through the Universal Period Review process, which involves a review of the human rights records of all UN Member States. Under the auspices of the Human Rights Council, the process provides the opportunity for each State to declare what actions they have taken to improve their human rights situation.

The experts said they hope that the authorities will respond favourably to a request for an invitation to visit Laos by the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai.

Along with Mr. Kiai, the experts speaking out on Laos today include the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst; and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and the protection of the right to freedom of expression and opinion, David Kaye.

Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back, in an unpaid capacity, on specific human rights themes.

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