A UN review of Laos’ rights record slated for July is expected to take a close look at the state of civil and political rights in the Southeast Asian country, focusing on reports in recent years of enforced disappearances and severe prison sentences imposed on critics of the country’s government. , say two Paris-based rights groups.
Numerous violations of citizens’ rights in the one-party communist state have been documented and must finally be addressed, said the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organization The Lao Human Rights Movement. Human Rights (LMHR) in a joint statement released this week.
“The next assessment of the disastrous situation of civil and political rights in Laos is a rare opportunity to highlight the repressive actions of the authoritarian government of Vientiane”, declared Debbie Stothard, general secretary of FIDH, in a press release dated 11 June. .
“It is essential that the international community pay close attention to this review and use its main findings to recalibrate its policies vis-Ã -vis Laos,” said Stothard.
Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, from July 11 to 12, the UN Human Rights Committee (CCPR) will for the first time examine the situation of civil and political rights in Laos, according to the joint statement. The committee monitors the compliance of signatory states with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Laos became a state party to the Covenant in 2009, rights groups noted.
“In Geneva, the Lao government delegation will have to answer many questions, starting with those concerning the enforced disappearance of civil society leader Sombath Somphone and the shocking prison sentences imposed on government critics,” said the president of the government. LMHR, Vanida Thepsouvanh.
“It is time for the government to be forthright and publicly address the serious violations of civil and political rights in Laos,” Thepsouvanh said.
In December, supporters and family friends marked the fifth anniversary of the disappearance in Laos of Sombath Somphone, a prominent civil society leader who disappeared at a police checkpoint outside the capital lao.
Right before his kidnapping, Sombath challenged government-brokered land deals that left thousands of rural Laotian citizens homeless with little compensation.
Meanwhile, three young Lao migrant workers disappeared in March 2016 after returning to Laos to renew their passports. Accused of criticizing the Laotian government online while working abroad, the three were later sentenced to prison terms ranging from 12 to 20 years in a secret trial in April 2017.
More recently, a Lao villager detained since July 2017 in a dispute over village land died under mysterious circumstances in police custody, with relatives disputing government claims that the man had committed suicide.
The villager, named Somsavanh, was among a group of 14 villagers from Sekong province detained for obstructing workers and cutting down trees on land granted by the Lao government to a Vietnamese rubber company, sources told RFA in a previous report.
Speaking to RFA’s Laotian service on June 11, Bounthone Chanthalavong-Wiese, chairman of the Germany-based Alliance for Democracy in Laos, said the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of the press are now systematically violated in Laos.
âThe freedom of civil society organizations and religious freedoms are also violated,â he said, adding, âAccording to the law, the Lao people can express their opinions based on what they think is right or wrong. wrong, but in reality it is difficult to do so. , because it can touch on political concerns.
RFA’s attempts to contact Lao officials responsible for treaties, laws and foreign affairs went unanswered this week, but an official from an independent department urged a better “understanding” of Lao government policy.
“We understand that the UN commission will pressure Laos to respect the rights of people in the country, in particular the rights to freedom of speech and expression, and political rights,” said the person in charge at RFA, on condition of anonymity.
âWe have to understand that Laos is not a democratic country. Changing things suddenly is very difficult, âhe said.
Reported by the Lao service of RFA. Translated by Sidney Khotpanya. Written in English by Richard Finney.