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?”
1. ActionAid International2. Afrika Kontakt3. Airavati4. AKSI for Gender, Social and Ecological Justice5. Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (ALTSEAN-Burma)6. Alyansa Tigil Mina - ATM (Alliance Against Mining)7. American Friends Service Committee8. Amnesty International9. Armanshahr/OPEN ASIA10. ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)11. ASEAN Youth Forum12. Asia Europe Labour Forum (AELF)13. Asia Europe People’s Forum - International Organising Committee14. Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD)15. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)16. ATTAC France17. Auriga NUSANTARA18. Awami Workers Party Pakistan19. Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)20. Bangladesh Krishok Federation21. Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM)22. Bank Information Centre23. Blue Dalian24. Boat People SOS25. Bytes for All26. Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC)27. Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)28. CCFD-Terre Solidaire29. 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 Defenders34. Coalition against Land Grabbing (CALG)35. Comité pour le Respect des Droits Humains Daniel Gillard36. 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 Committee40. Development and Peace41. Dhoritri Foundation for Information Education42. Doustourna Network43. EarthRights International44. Ecologistas en Acción45. Empowering Singaporeans46. Equitable Cambodia47. EU-ASEAN FTA Campaign Network48. Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières (ESSF)49. Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND)50. Fian International51. FIDH - International Federation for Human Rights / within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders52. Focus on the Global South53. Front Line Defenders54. Fundación Solón55. Future Light Center56. Global Witness57. HAK Association58. Hawaii Institute for Human Rights59. Housing Rights Task Force (HRTF)60. Htoi Gender and Development Foundation61. 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 Watch66. Human Rights Working Group (HRWG)67. Inclusive Development International68. Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF)69. Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF)70. INDIGENOUS71. Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation72. INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre73. Informal Sector Service Center (INSEC)74. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)75. International Peace Bureau76. Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw)77. Justice for Iran (JFI)78. Korean House for International Solidarity (KHIS)79. Land Core Group80. 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. MARUAH86. Mekong Monitor Tasmania87. Mekong Watch88. Metta Development Foundation89. Minidram90. Monitoring Sustainability of Globalization91. Moroccan Human Rights Organization (OMDH)92. Network for Social Justice and Human Rights93. Network for Transformative Social Protection (NTSP)94. Odhikar95. Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee96. People's Empowerment Foundation97. People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD)98. People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR)99. People’s Watch100. Peoples’ Network for Constitutional Reform101. Perkumpulan HuMa102. Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)103. Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc.104. Philippine Network Against Torture105. Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement106. Progressive Voice107. Project SEVANA South-East Asia108. Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation109. School for Wellbeing Studies and Research110. SILAKA111. Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign112. Solidarité des Jeunes Lao en France113. Sombath Somphone and Beyond Project114. Stiftung Asienhaus115. Strey Khmer116. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)117. Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR)118. The Sombath Initiative119. Think Centre120. Togetherness for Equality and Action121. Toward Ecological Recovery and Regional Alliance (TERRA)122. Transnational Institute123. Union for Civil Liberty (UCL)124. Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR)125. Vimutti Women Organization126. Women Peace Network – Arakan127. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) / within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders128. World Rainforest Movement (WRM)129. Yayasan HAK130. Young Leadership for Social Change Programme131. Youth for Peace132. #ReturnOurCPF