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Six Years On, Civil Society Worldwide Demands Answers to the Enforced Disappearance of Sombath Somphone

Laos: Six Years On, Civil Society Worldwide Demands Answers to the Enforced Disappearance of Sombath Somphone

14 December 2018: On the eve of the sixth anniversary of the enforced disappearance of Lao civil society leader Sombath Somphone, we, the undersigned organizations, reiterate our calls for the Lao government to conduct an independent, impartial and effective investigation to reveal his fate and whereabouts.

Sombath was last seen at a police checkpoint on a busy street of the Lao capital, Vientiane, on the evening of 15 December 2012. Footage from a CCTV camera showed that Sombath’s vehicle was stopped at the police checkpoint and, within minutes, individuals forced him into another vehicle and drove him away in the presence of police officers. CCTV footage also showed an unknown individual driving Sombath’s vehicle away from the city center. The fact that police officers were present at and witnessed Sombath’s abduction and failed to intervene strongly indicates state agents’ involvement in, or acquiescence to, human rights violations committed against Sombath, which include the crime of enforced disappearance. Later that evening, witnesses reportedly saw Sombath at a police holding facility in Vientiane yet to date officials have provided no information about what he was doing there and subsequently what happened to him.

For the last six years, the Lao government has failed to provide any credible answers with regard to the disappearance of Sombath Somphone. In its most recent pronouncements, made during the review of Laos’ initial report by the Human Rights Committee (CCPR) in July 2018, the Lao government said it had been “trying very hard” to investigate Sombath’s fate and whereabouts. However, this statement has been contradicted by the government’s refusal to accept international assistance in conducting the investigation and to provide any details about the progress of its investigation. Lao authorities have failed to disclose any new findings from their investigation of Sombath’s case to the public since 8 June 2013 and have met with his wife, Shui Meng Ng, only twice since January 2013.

Despite the government’s recent claim that police had the “capacity and techniques” to reveal Sombath’s fate and whereabouts, we remain extremely concerned by the lack of progress in the investigation by Lao authorities into his case and reiterate our call for Vientiane to allow international assistance towards conducting an independent, impartial and thorough investigation according to international law and standards.

The Lao authorities have international legal obligations to conduct such investigations and to bring persons responsible for serious violations to justice under treaties to which they are party, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture.

We also urge the Lao government to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which Laos signed in September 2008, to incorporate the Convention’s provisions into the country’s domestic legislation, and implement it in practice.

Until Sombath Somphone’s fate and whereabouts are revealed, we will not stop demanding that Sombath be safely returned to his family and we will continue to ask the Lao government: “Where is Sombath?”

1. 11.11.11 Belgium

2. Action from Ireland (Afri)

3. Addison Road Community Centre Organisation (ARCCO)

4. All India women Hawker Federation

5. Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (ALTSEAN-Burma)

6. Amnesty International

7. Armanshahr/OPEN ASIA

8. ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)

9. Asia Pacific Movement for Debt and Development (APMDD)

10. Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD)

11. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia)

12. Attac France

13. Bangladesh Working Group on External Debt (BWGED)

14. Bank Information Center

15. Borneo Dayak Forum International

16. Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino - BMP (Workers Solidarity Philippines)

17. Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR)

18. Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC)

19. Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)

20. CCFD-Terre Solidaire

21. Centre for Environmental Justice

22. China Labour Bulletin

23. Christian Development Alternative (CDA)

24. CLEAN (Coastal Livelihood and Environmental Action Network)

25. CNCD-11.11.11

26. Coalition against Trafficking in Women-Asia Pacific

27. Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS)

28. Community Action Network (CAN)

29. Community Resource Centre Foundation (CRC)

30. Corner House

31. EarthRights International

32. Ecologistas en Acción

33. Environics Trust

34. Equitable Cambodia

35. Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières (ESSF)

36. Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND)

37. FIAN International

38. FIDH - International Federation for Human Rights, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

39. Finnish Asiatic Society

40. Focus on the Global South

41. Fresh Eyes -- People to People Travel CIC

42. Function 8

43. Fundacion Solón

44. Global Justice Now

45. Human Rights Commission Pakistan (HRCP)

46. Human Rights in China (HRIC)

47. Human Rights Watch

48. Indian Social Action Forum - INSAF

49. International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearances (ICAED)

50. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)

51. International Peace Bureau

52. International Rivers

53. Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw)

54. Jagaran Nepal

55. KATARUNGAN (Kilusan para sa Repormang Agraryo at Katarungang Panlipunan)

56. Kesatuan Nelayan Traditional (KNT)

57. Keshav Gore Smarak Trust

58. KRuHA - People's Coalition for The Right To Water

59. Labour Education Foundation

60. Land Watch Thai

61. Lao Movement for Human Rights (LMHR)

62. League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran (LDDHI)

63. Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center--Kasama sa Kalikasan/Friends of the Earth

64. LILAK (Purple Action for Indigenous Women's Rights)

65. Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (MADPET)

66. Maldivian Democracy Network

67. Manushya Foundation


69. Migrant Forum in Asia

70. National Hawker Federation

71. Network for Transformative Social Protection

72. New Trade Union Initiative

73. NGO Forum on ADB

74. Nomadic Livestock Keepers' Development Public Fund (NLKDF)

75. Nouveaux Cahiers du Socialism

76. Odhikar

77. Pakistan Bhatta Mazdoor Union

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