Laos: Government mocks UN human rights review

30/06/2015
Press release
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Paris, 30 June 2015: The Lao government’s failure to accept key recommendations received during its latest Universal Periodic Review (UPR) has turned the UN-backed review process into a farce, FIDH and its member organization, the Lao Movement for Human Rights (LMHR), said today.

“The Lao government’s defensive attitude and blanket denials have made its UPR a farce. The latest Laos UPR has clearly shown that Vientiane is unwilling to address important human rights issues,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji.

On 23 June, Laos accepted 116 of the 196 recommendations it received at its second UPR in January 2015. [1] According to Thongphane Savanhphet, the Lao government’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, the remaining 80 recommendations “did not enjoy the full support” of the government.

The Lao government’s response was particularly inadequate with regard to the issue of enforced disappearances. The government rejected all eight recommendations that called for investigations into all allegations of enforced disappearance in the country and dismissed such allegations as “not true.” In an incongruous twist, the government acknowledged the disappearance of prominent civil society leader Sombath Somphone, but accepted only four of the 10 recommendations that called for an investigation into his disappearance. In its explanation of the rejection of the six recommendations related to Sombath’s case, the government churned out stale propaganda and provided no new information regarding its purported attempts to determine Sombath’s fate or whereabouts. The government stated that its Investigation Committee was “opened to views or suggestions from all interested parties” and that concerned authorities were “still thoroughly conducting the investigation.”

In addition, the government remained non-committal regarding the ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED). More than six years after signing the ICPPED and despite having accepted several recommendations that called for the ratification of the ICPPED at it its first UPR in May 2010, the government said it was only “considering” ratifying the treaty.

With regard to other human rights areas, the Lao government rejected numerous recommendations that called for: respect for freedom of expression, including internet and media freedom; protection of human rights defenders; removal of obstacles to the work of civil society organizations and NGOs; and the abolition of the death penalty.

The Lao government also failed to accept various recommendations that called for the establishment of a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) in accordance with the ‘Paris Principles.’ In an incredulous response, the government claimed that the country has “national mechanisms that deal with human rights, almost similar to the Paris principles-based NHRI.”

Finally, the government ‘noted’ recommendations that called for the ratification of important international treaties. The Lao government said it needed “more time to study” the Optional Protocol to Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the International Convention for the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families, and the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. It also said it was “not ready” to become a party to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (CAT); and the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

Despite its failure to issue any standing invitations to UN special procedures for country visits during the past five years, the government reiterated it was “preparing for inviting special rapporteurs” and that it planned to invite the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing for a country visit “in the near future.”

“Laos’ inadequate conduct at its latest UPR shows that the government has a long way to go before it becomes a credible candidate for the UN Human Rights Council,” said LMHR President Vanida Thepsouvanh. “Unless the international community meets the government’s delaying tactics and empty promises with renewed political pressure, it is unlikely that the human rights situation in the country will improve.”

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)

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