On 4th anniversary of enforced disappearance, civil society demands to know: “Where is Sombath Somphone?”


(Bangkok) On the fourth anniversary of the enforced disappearance of prominent Lao civil society leader Sombath Somphone, we, the undersigned organizations, condemn the Lao PDR government’s ongoing failure to adequately investigate Sombath’s disappearance.

We urge the authorities to act to conduct an effective investigation with a view to determining his fate or whereabouts. In particular, we condemn the Lao PDR government’s inaction after the discovery of new video evidence made public 12 months ago.

Sombath was last seen at a police checkpoint on a busy street of the Lao capital, Vientiane, on the evening of 15 December 2012. Sombath’s abduction was captured on a CCTV camera placed near the police checkpoint. CCTV footage showed that police stopped Sombath’s car and, within minutes, unknown individuals forced him into another vehicle and drove away. The CCTV footage clearly shows that Sombath was taken away in the presence of police officers. The footage also showed an unknown individual driving away from the city in Sombath’s car.

In December 2015, Sombath’s family obtained new CCTV footage from the same area and made it public. The video shows Sombath’s car being driven back towards the city by an unknown individual. At a minimum, this should have prompted a review of other CCTV cameras along the main route the car was taking back into the city.

Since this new evidence was made public by Sombath’s family, the Lao authorities have failed to take any initiative with regard to the investigation, or present any new findings. Police issued their last report on the case on 8 June 2013. After four years, it is apparent that the government has not undertaken a serious and competent investigation into Sombath’s enforced disappearance.

We also call on the Lao authorities to provide information on the fate or whereabouts of 10 other activists who are victims of enforced disappearance. Authorities detained two women, Kingkeo and Somchit, and seven men, Soubinh, Souane, Sinpasong, Khamsone, Nou, Somkhit, and Sourigna, in November 2009 for planning to participate in pro-democracy demonstrations. Uniformed men abducted and caused the enforced disappearance of Somphone Khantisouk, an outspoken critic of Chinese-sponsored agricultural projects in Luang Namtha Province, in January 2007 and there has been no trace of him since.

The arrest and abduction of Sombath Somphone and the 10 other activists, followed by the Lao PDR government’s refusal to acknowledge their deprivation of liberty, or provide information on their fate or whereabouts amounts to enforced disappearances under Article 2 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED). Despite signing the ICPPED on 29 September 2008, Laos is yet to ratify the convention. The government should immediately ratify the ICPPED and adopt national legislation to effectively implement its provisions and ensure that no one else faces enforced disappearances in the future.

The Lao PDR government’s ongoing failure to undertake adequate investigations into all cases of enforced disappearances violates its obligations under Article 2(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Laos is a state party. The ICCPR states that governments must provide an “effective remedy” for violations of rights guaranteed by the Covenant, including the right to liberty and security of person.

We call on the Lao PDR government to end its denial of basic facts around Sombath’s enforced disappearance and immediately conduct a competent, impartial, effective, and thorough investigation into his disappearance, as well as all other cases of enforced disappearances.

We urge individuals, institutions, and governments around the world to join our call and demand the Lao PDR government answer the question: “Where is Sombath Somphone?”

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  • Co-signatories

    1. ActionAid International
    2. Afrika Kontakt
    3. Airavati
    4. AKSI for Gender, Social and Ecological Justice
    5. Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (ALTSEAN-Burma)
    6. Alyansa Tigil Mina - ATM (Alliance Against Mining)
    7. American Friends Service Committee
    8. Amnesty International
    9. Armanshahr/OPEN ASIA
    10. ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)
    11. ASEAN Youth Forum
    12. Asia Europe Labour Forum (AELF)
    13. Asia Europe People’s Forum - International Organising Committee
    14. Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD)
    15. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    16. ATTAC France
    17. Auriga NUSANTARA
    18. Awami Workers Party Pakistan
    19. Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)
    20. Bangladesh Krishok Federation
    21. Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM)
    22. Bank Information Centre
    23. Blue Dalian
    24. Boat People SOS
    25. Bytes for All
    26. Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC)
    27. Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)
    28. CCFD-Terre Solidaire
    29. Center for the Study of Rural Change in Mexico (CECCAM)
    30. Center of Human Rights Law Studies (HRLS)
    31. Christian Development Alternative (CDA)
    32. Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW)
    33. Civil Rights Defenders
    34. Coalition against Land Grabbing (CALG)
    35. Comité pour le Respect des Droits Humains Daniel Gillard
    36. Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS)
    37. Committee for Free and Fair Election in Cambodia (COMFREL)
    38. Community Resource Centre Foundation (CRC)
    39. Democratic Education Support Committee
    40. Development and Peace
    41. Dhoritri Foundation for Information Education
    42. Doustourna Network
    43. EarthRights International
    44. Ecologistas en Acción
    45. Empowering Singaporeans
    46. Equitable Cambodia
    47. EU-ASEAN FTA Campaign Network
    48. Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières (ESSF)
    49. Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND)
    50. Fian International
    51. FIDH – International Federation for Human Rights
    52. Focus on the Global South
    53. Front Line Defenders
    54. Fundación Solón
    55. Future Light Center
    56. Global Witness
    57. HAK Association
    58. Hawaii Institute for Human Rights
    59. Housing Rights Task Force (HRTF)
    60. Htoi Gender and Development Foundation
    61. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP)
    62. Human Rights Defenders Alert – India (HRDA)
    63. Human Rights Defenders Forum (HRDF)
    64. Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA)
    65. Human Rights Watch
    66. Human Rights Working Group (HRWG)
    67. Inclusive Development International
    68. Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF)
    69. Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF)
    71. Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation
    72. INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre
    73. Informal Sector Service Center (INSEC)
    74. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
    75. International Peace Bureau
    76. Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw)
    77. Justice for Iran (JFI)
    78. Korean House for International Solidarity (KHIS)
    79. Land Core Group
    80. Land Research Action Network (LRAN)
    81. Lao Movement for Human Rights (LMHR)
    82. League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran (LDDHI)
    83. LILAK (Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights)
    84. Malaysian Against Death Penalty and Torture (MADPET)
    85. MARUAH
    86. Mekong Monitor Tasmania
    87. Mekong Watch
    88. Metta Development Foundation
    89. Minidram
    90. Monitoring Sustainability of Globalization
    91. Moroccan Human Rights Organization (OMDH)
    92. Network for Social Justice and Human Rights
    93. Network for Transformative Social Protection (NTSP)
    94. Odhikar
    95. Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee
    96. People’s Empowerment Foundation
    97. People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD)
    98. People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR)
    99. People’s Watch
    100. Peoples’ Network for Constitutional Reform
    101. Perkumpulan HuMa
    102. Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)
    103. Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc.
    104. Philippine Network Against Torture
    105. Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement
    106. Progressive Voice
    107. Project SEVANA South-East Asia
    108. Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation
    109. School for Wellbeing Studies and Research
    110. SILAKA
    111. Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign
    112. Solidarité des Jeunes Lao en France
    113. Sombath Somphone and Beyond Project
    114. Stiftung Asienhaus
    115. Strey Khmer
    116. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
    117. Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR)
    118. The Sombath Initiative
    119. Think Centre
    120. Togetherness for Equality and Action
    121. Toward Ecological Recovery and Regional Alliance (TERRA)
    122. Transnational Institute
    123. Union for Civil Liberty (UCL)
    124. Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR)
    125. Vimutti Women Organization
    126. Women Peace Network – Arakan
    127. World Organization Against Torture (OMCT)
    128. World Rainforest Movement (WRM)
    129. Yayasan HAK
    130. Young Leadership for Social Change Programme
    131. Youth for Peace
    132. #ReturnOurCPF

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