Oral statement for the formal briefing with UN Human Rights Committee members


Distinguished members of the UN Human Rights Committee,

In many parts of the world, we are increasingly witnessing a “shrinking space” for civil society. With regard to the Lao PDR, we can talk with absolute certainty of “no space” for civil society. This is illustrated by the absence of civil society members from the Lao PDR in Geneva this week to attend the review of the country’s initial report.

There are many reasons for the absence of space for civil society in the Lao PDR. Ultimately, they can be traced to the government’s absolute failure to respect, protect, and fulfill virtually all civil and political rights enumerated in the ICCPR.

FIDH and LMHR wish to draw your attention to three main issues, which have had a devastating impact on Lao civil society and should be given absolute priority during your dialogue with the government and in your Concluding Observations.

Number one, the systematic repression of any form of peaceful dissent and the denial of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. The shocking jail sentences of up to 20 years to three peaceful government critics in March 2017 were meant to be a warning to anyone who disapproves of the government’s policies and actions.

Number two, the enactment of repressive legislation aimed at strengthening government control over local non-profit associations and preventing them from freely operating without undue interference from the authorities.

Number three, the widespread impunity for enforced disappearances. FIDH and LMHR are aware of dozens of cases of activists, human rights defenders, and members of ethnic minorities who have been subjected to enforced disappearance in the Lao PDR. In particular, the enforced disappearance of civil society leader Sombath Somphone in December 2012 sent a chilling message to the already fragile civil society and has contributed to the pervasive climate of fear in the country.

FIDH and LMHR respectfully call on you to demand the government satisfactorily address these issues during the review. A simple repetition of what is contained in the national report and the reply to the List of Issues should be considered as a failure on the government’s part to cooperate with the committee and to comply with its obligations under the ICCPR.

Thank you.

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