Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
Lao Movement for Human Rights (MLDH)
Lao People's Democratic Republic: European Union should call for the release of human rights defenders and prisoners of opinion now
Paris-Geneva, April 13th,2011. Today, the Subcommittee on Human Rights of the European Parliament will examine the human rights situation in Laos in view of the general election on 30 April 2011. The European Union should take this opportunity to call on the Laotian Government to release all prisoners of conscience and others detained for peacefully calling for political reforms and greater respect of human rights, FIDH , OMCT, and the Lao Movement for Human Rights said today.
Secrecy and denial are the weapons of choice of the Laotian authorities as they continue to keep a stranglehold on constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of expression, assembly and association, while keeping those who dare to stand up for these freedoms behind bar, far from the view and reach of the rest of the world”, said Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President. “The European Union, and the international community, has a responsibility to shed a light on the situation of these prisoners, considering the Lao government’s refusal to even recognise the illegal detention of many of them”, Secretary General Eric Sottas added.
Five student protesters were arrested in October 1999 for displaying posters urging for peaceful economic, political and social reform. They were sentenced up to 10 years’ imprisonment and in the decade since, the Laotian government has consistently refused to provide any coherent information on the whereabouts or health conditions of the members of the Movement of October 26, 1999. Information regarding the death of one, reportedly from physical abuse, and the release of another became known only several years after the fact. Although the remaining three should have been released by October 2009 at the end of their sentences, they are still in prison, despite a 2007 declaration made to visiting European Members of Parliament by the President of the Lao National Assembly that they were freed at the end of 2006.
As many as 100 people were reportedly stopped and detained in November 2009 on their way from the countryside [can we name the specific provincial location?] to Vientiane, the nation’s capital, to join a peaceful demonstration aimed at calling on the Laotian government to introduce political reforms and ensure greater respect for human rights. Nine of these individuals remain unaccounted for and are believed to be in prison. They are not known to have been formally charged and the government has not acknowledged their detention.[need to confirm]
Despite being party to a number of core human rights treaties, including the ICCPR, Lao PDR continue to flaunt its obligations and trample on fundamental freedoms with impunity”, said Vanida Thephsouvanh, MLDH President. “The European Parliament should publicly press Lao PDR for the truth and the immediate and unconditional release of all those detained for their peaceful and legitimate activities”, Ms. Thephsouvanh stressed.
Below is a non-exhaustive list of human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience currently in prison:
Mr. Thongpaseuth Keuakoun – activist from the Lao Student Movement of October 2009. Arrested in October 2009 .
Mr. Seng-Aloun Phengphanh – activist from the Lao Student Movement of October 2009. Arrested in October 2009 .
Mr. Bouavanh Chanhmanivong – activist from the Lao Student Movement of October 2009. Arrested in October 2009 .
Ms. Kingkeo Phongsely – Arrested on November 2, 2009.
Ms. Somchit – Arrested on November 2, 2009 .
Mr. Soubinh – Arrested on November 2, 2009.
Mr. Souane – Arrested on November 2, 2009.
Mr Sinpasong – Arrested on November 2, 2009.
Mr Khamsone – Arrested on November 2, 2009 .
Mr. Nou – Arrested on November 2, 2009.
Mr. Somkhit – Arrested on November 2, 2009.
Mr. Sourigna - Arrested on November 2, 2009 .
FIDH: Karine Appy/Arthur Manet (Paris), + 33-14-355-1412, + 33-14-355-9019
MLDH: Vanida Thephsouvanh (Paris), +33 1 60 06 57 06
OMCT: Seynabou Benga (Geneva), + 41-22 809 49 39; Delphine Reculeau (Geneva), + 41-22 809 49 39