EU human rights talks must be backed by action

03/11/2015
Press release
Laos

(Paris) The EU must ensure that the Lao government makes firm commitments during upcoming bilateral human rights talks, FIDH and its member organization Lao Movement for Human Rights (LMHR) said today. The two organizations made the call ahead of the 6th EU-Laos human rights dialogue, which will be held on 6 November in Vientiane.

In conjunction with the human rights dialogue, FIDH and LMHR published a joint briefing paper that details ongoing human rights violations that have occurred in the country since the previous round of talks in May 2014.

“It is imperative that the EU negotiates clear, measurable, and time-bound commitments with the Lao government and ensures their implementation. Otherwise, the human rights dialogue risks being a meaningless process that does not deliver any concrete results”

FIDH President Karim Lahidji

Since May 2014, the Lao government has enacted additional draconian legislation, such as Decree 327, to augment its existing arsenal of repressive laws. Authorities have arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned individuals who have criticized the government or exposed instances of corruption. Authorities have continued to crack down on religious minorities, arresting numerous members of various Christian groups.

The government has failed to provide any updates on the investigation of the enforced disappearance of prominent civil society leader Sombath Somphone, whose fate and whereabouts remain unknown. In addition, it has outrageously labeled allegations of other unresolved enforced disappearances as “not true.”

The space for Lao civil society to conduct human rights activities remains non-existent. Proposed regulations could impose further restrictions on the activities of local non-profit associations (NPAs) and international non-governmental organizations (INGOs). The Lao government also decided it would not host the 2016 ASEAN Peoples’ Forum/ASEAN Civil Society Conference (APF/ACSC) that is traditionally held just before the annual ASEAN Summit. The decision was justified by saying that “foreigners” would use the event to criticize ASEAN governments and that the safety of “extremist” activists who planned to attend the meeting could not be guaranteed. Since its inception in 2005, this will be the first time the APF/ACSC will not convene.

The ongoing pursuit of controversial infrastructure projects, such as the Don Sahong hydropower dam, without adequate safeguards and proper consultation with affected stakeholders, risks having a negative impact on the of socio-economic rights of local communities. Meanwhile, reports of evictions without adequate compensation in connection with investment projects continue to surface.

Finally, despite the fact that Laos has not executed anyone since 1989, courts have continued to impose death sentences on convicted criminals, mostly for drug-related offenses. The government has also delayed amendments to the Criminal Code aimed at limiting capital punishment to the most serious crimes, in accordance with international standards.

“The recent defeat of Laos in the UN Human Rights Council election shows that the international community has taken note of the government’s failure to make demonstrable progress on human rights. It is time for the EU to use its influence and demand that Laos comply with its international human rights obligations and implement the numerous recommendations it received during the Universal Periodic Review process”

LMHR President Vanida Thephsouvanh

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)