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OPEN LETTER : The Government of Lao Denied the Disappearance of Mr. Somphone on the Universal Periodic Review.

 

The Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS) – a human rights organization based in Indonesia, express its concern toward the national report of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic Government  in the Universal Periodic Review, on 20 January 2015. The report,  does not mention any progress of investigation of the Enforced Disappearance Case of the well-known human rights defenders, Mr. Sombath Somphone. The Government of Lao is irresponsible to conduct such prompt and impartial investigation, while the government also turned down all overs of assistance to solve Sombath case.

Based upon the compilation of stakeholder reportwe notes  that many international human rights organizations  have shown their concern on the disappearance of Mr. Somphone. Furthermore, many countries also gave their advance question to the Government of Laoin regards to question the government on the progress investigation to solve Mr. Somphone’s case. It reflects the concern of the International Community regarding the lack of progress and information of investigations into the fate and whereabouts of Mr. Sombath Somphone. He has been missing for over two years and to date, the investigations on in this respect appear to be lacking or ineffective.

Previously, on the one hand we found that the Government of Lao has denied its security sector involvement on the abduction if Mr. Somphone. on the other hand the CCTV footage obtained by his family shows that Sombathwas last seen with local police at the Thadeau police office  on 15 December 2012, shortlythereafter he left his office at around 5pm. Therefore the statements of the government stated that it had no knowledge or involvement in the “disappearance" of Sombathcan not be accepted.

We acknowledge that to date, the government of Lao released two statements which denials its responsibility in the international fora. The first statement was released by Laos’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs last 19 December 2012. The second statement was a response by Laos’ Ambassador to queries from the UN Human Rights Council’s Special Procedures about Sombath’s fate and whereabouts, and was released last 4 January 2013. In both statements the government maintained that it had no knowledge or involvement in the “disappearance" of Sombath.

We believe that the government of Lao shall responsible for the protection of human rights defender  within its country, including to solve the “disappearance" of Sombath . We would like to remind the Government under the Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which states on the article 12 that in some instances where there is an allegation that a person has been subjected to an enforced disappearance, the State shall ensure that the complaint is investigated by a competent and independent State authority.

Lao is one of the first countries in Southeast Asia to sign the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced. As a signatory to the Convention against Enforce Disappearance, Laos is obligated under article 18 of the Vienna Convention of the Law of Treaties to “refrain from acts which would defeat the object and purpose" of the treaty. Lao government must be consistent with the Convention against Enforce Disappearance, “no one shall be subjected to the enforced disappearance" (article 1) and that states “shall take appropriate measures to investigate acts" to investigate alleged disappearances including when committed “by persons or groups of persons acting without the authorization, support or acquiescence of the state" (article 3).

The International community is needed to constantly give pressure to the Government of Lao to further investigate the whereabouts of Mr. Somphone. All efforts shall be conducted  to find the whereabouts of Mr. Somphone and punish those who responsible for the abduction.

Moreover, the government of Lao must ensure the non reccurence of the enforce disappearance towards all persons within its jurisdiction.

 

Jakarta, 23 January 2014

 

Haris Azhar
Executive Coordinator