Paris-Geneva-Bangkok, 16 March 2012. The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has issued its concerns and recommendations  regarding the compliance of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (LPDR) with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organization, the Lao Movement for Human Rights (MLDH), welcome the CERD’s observations and recommendations and urge the government of LPDR to sincerely implement them without delay and seek the assistance from the UN human rights system. The LPDR presented its report before the CERD on 28-29 February 2012.
Noting the lack of a comprehensive definition of racial discrimination in domestic law, the CERD is concerned that the LPDR “has not taken all the necessary legislative measures to incorporate the provisions of the Convention in its domestic law”. Experts on the CERD also expressed concerns that some ethnic groups have faced discrimination in the exercise of their freedom of religion, and called on the government to protect their right to practice their religion freely and without discrimination.
“ Ethnic minorities’ lack of basic freedoms and their unequal access to justice are symptomatic of the general human rights situation in the LPDR. It is characterized by a high degree of authoritarian control and virtually no space for independent civil society and dissenting voices ”, said Debbie Stothard, FIDH Deputy Secretary-General.
FIDH and MLDH further welcome the attention given to the situation of the Hmong, who continue to be at risk of persecution. The CERD calls on LPDR to investigate “all allegations of acts of violence against members of the Hmong ethnic group”, to “ensure that repatriation of persons or groups, considered as persons of concern to UNHCR, is conducted on a genuinely voluntary basis”, and to “give international monitors unrestricted access to returnees”.
In light of the recent trend of development-related land grabbing and forced relocation, which tends to disproportionately affect ethnic minorities, the CERD asks LPDR to respect the rights of communities to “free prior and informed consent…in the planning and implementation of projects affecting the use of their lands and resources”.
“ For far too long, the LPDR government has engaged with UN human rights mechanisms without implementing their recommendations in sincerity or respecting the rights protected by both international and national law ”, said Vanida S. Thephsouvah, President of MLDH. “ LPDR should cease immediately the violations of the rights of ethnic minorities, provide redress to victims, and carry out real political reforms to bring about the rule of law and institutional protection of human rights ”.