Posts Tagged ‘Sombath Somphone’

Human rights laureates call for end to torture and disappearances in Asia

January 15, 2016

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) in a press release of 18 December gave a short report of a meeting held on 12-14 December 2015, where 8 laureates of the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights, and human rights defenders from the Asian region participated in an international workshop on“Torture, Violence, and Enforced Disappearances in Asia” organized by Imparsial, IKOHI, and the May 18 Memorial Foundation, (Gwangju, South Korea). The speakers and the victims discussed the realities of human rights issues including torture and enforced disappearances and the implications for the justice institutions to address the problems: Read the rest of this entry »

Sombath Somphone: third anniversary of his disappearance in Laos

January 4, 2016

The first Newsletter of Michel Forst, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, recalls the case of Sombath Somphone, who is a founder of non-governmental organisations in the field of education and rural development He is one of the best-known defenders of social rights in Laos. For all his works and his actions he has received numerous international awards including the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership.

Since 15 December 2012, Sombat Sombone is missing. A CCTV footage shows his last moments before his disappearance. According to these images, a motorcycle policeman asks him to get off his vehicle before two men in a vehicle took him. Various international actors, including delegations from the European Parliament and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, went on-site during official visits and used these occasions to question authorities about the situation of Sombath Sompone. According to the feedbacks of these visits, no progress has been made in the investigation into his disappearance and no concrete answer was given to their questions. Thus, many calls were made both by civil society organisations and international institutions in order to have answers on the disappearance of Sombath Sompone and the ones of many others political opponents and other disappeared persons. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/12/31/happy-new-year-that-2016-may-be-a-better-year-for-human-rights-defenders/]

A year after the disappearance of Sombath Sompone, several Special Rapporteurs, including the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, issued a statement encouraging the Laotian authorities to intensify their efforts in the investigation process into his disappearance. See also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/12/24/laos-un-experts-on-two-year-old-disappearance-of-human-rights-defender-sombath-somphone/

ASEAN human rights defenders formulate demands ahead of People’s Forum later this month

April 1, 2015

ASEAN People's Forum

Casey Hynes reports on 26 March that human rights defenders are preparing to bring up strongly the case of their missing Laotian colleague Sombath Somphone at the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN People’s Forum that convenes in Kuala Lumpur on 21-24 April 2015. Sombath was kidnapped in Vientiane, Laos, in 2013 [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/12/24/laos-un-experts-on-two-year-old-disappearance-of-human-rights-defender-sombath-somphone/].

The ACSC/APF allows civil society activists from all the ASEAN countries to voice their concerns about rights violations in their countries, and become empowered by the strength in numbers there. In countries such as Laos and Vietnam, dissent is often suppressed with jail time or enforced disappearances, which makes it extremely dangerous for activists to speak out. Jerald Joseph, chair of the APF’s Regional Steering Committee, said that by coming to the forum, activists who face risks in their home countries find a safer space to voice their concerns.

ACSC/APF organizers recently condemned the crackdown on protesters in Burma, where 100 people were arrested for speaking out against a new education law. They also pointed to a spate of political arrests in Malaysia and the murder of Indonesian farmer and lands rights activist Indra Pelani, who was allegedly shot to death by “security guards of a subsidiary company of Asia Pulp and Paper”.

There are numerous cases where human rights defenders have just disappeared. Somchai Neelapaijit in Thailand, Sombath Somphone in Laos, and Jonas Burgos in the Philippines—where are they?” said Mugiyanto, a member of the International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development.

The Laos government is notorious for restricting civil society activism, and for routinely committing human rights abuses. However, Laos is set to take over the ASEAN chairmanship in 2016, and Joseph said they’ll have to answer for some of their abuses when that happens. Already, civil society actors have been discussing the rights situation in Laos with activists and government officials there. “The conversation has started, and the pressure is up already,” he said in a phone interview.

Participating organizations sent a letter on behalf of the ACSC/APF to all the ASEAN member governments in January, highlighting their priorities for “reclaiming the ASEAN community for the people.”

The letter stated:

While ASEAN governments are heading towards developing the ASEAN Community’s Post-2015 Vision, the people of ASEAN continue to suffer from authoritarian and military regimes, increased militarisation, violence and armed conflicts, unlawful foreign interference, lack of fundamental freedoms and human rights violations, undemocratic processes, corruption and poor governance, development injustice, discrimination, inequality, and religious extremism and intolerance. …

The failure of ASEAN to meaningfully address the people’s issues is deeply rooted in the organisation’s continued adherence to a neo-liberal model that prioritizes corporate interests and elite groups, including state-owned enterprises, over the interests of the people. Our engagement with the ASEAN process is therefore anchored on a critique and rejection of deregulation, privatisation, government and corporate-led trade and investment policies that breed greater inequalities, accelerate marginalization and exploitation, and inhibit peace, democracy, development, and social progress in the region.

The authors identified four priorities for ASEAN governments to focus on: development justice; democratic processes, governance, and fundamental rights and freedoms; peace and security; and discrimination and inequality.

ASEAN rights activists demand change ahead of People’s Forum | Asian Correspondent.

Laos: UN experts on two-year-old disappearance of human rights defender Sombath Somphone

December 24, 2014

Wouldn’t it be a truly nice Christmas gift if the Laos government would finally undertake a serious investigation into the disappearance of  human rights defender Sombath Somphone, who was last seen in December 2012. That is what a group of United Nations independent experts urged today, 23 December 2014:

It is high time for the authorities of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic to voluntarily request international assistance with the aim of shedding light on Mr. Somphone’s fate and whereabouts, two years after his disappearance,” the experts said in a news release. “International law makes clear that the Government of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic has the duty to carry out an independent, thorough, credible and effective investigation,” they added. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/sombath-somphone/]

(The situation of human rights in Laos is due to be assessed next month through the Universal Period Review process, which involves a review of the human rights records of all UN Member States. Under the auspices of the Human Rights Council, the process provides the opportunity for each State to declare what actions they have taken to improve their human rights situation.)

Along with Mr. Kiai, the experts speaking out on Laos today include the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst; and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and the protection of the right to freedom of expression and opinion, David Kaye.

United Nations News Centre – Laos: UN experts appeal for help to probe two-year-old disappearance of rights defender.

NGOs call for United Nations to pressure Laos on human rights during UPR

December 8, 2014

On 3 December 2014 the Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA), the Lao Movement for Human Rights (LMHR), and a coalition of other NGOs called for United Nations to urge the government of Laos to cease ongoing human rights violations and to restore fundamental human freedoms. They are also calling for the release of Sombath Somphone and other imprisoned Lao and Hmong political and religious dissidents.

In advance of Lao People’s Democratic Republic (LPDR)’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) scheduled for 20 January 2015 in Geneva, the Geneva-based UPR-Info invited diplomats to hear the concerns of civil society organizations at a UPR pre-session in Geneva. Twenty one representatives from the Geneva-based missions attended the pre-session.

We have deep concerns about violations of freedom of expression, enforced disappearances and religious freedom in Laos. Regretting that Lao PDR has not implemented recommendations it accepted at its first UPR in 2010, she urged States to raise concerns on these human rights abuses and presented concrete recommendations for human rights progress in Laos,” stated Thephsouvanh, speaking on behalf of the LMHR, which is also a member of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).

NGOs Call for United Nations to Pressure Laos | Scoop News.

http://www.centerforpublicpolicyanalysis.org

EU asked to press Laos on human rights in today dialogue

May 19, 2014

Interesting to note that this piece found its way into the Tourism Section of the Thai newspaper Phuket Wan [“This is the first site on the island dedicated especially to tourism, property, restaurants and nightlife, and jobs”of 19 May 2014. “The European Union EU must make the strengthening of bilateral relations with Laos contingent upon the Lao governments ability to make tangible progress in addressing key human rights issues, FIDH and it member organisation, the Lao Movement for Human Rights, said .” The paper then summarizes the briefing paper titled ‘Laos: The government’s failure to reform and address serious human rights issues call for EU action‘, released ahead of the 5th Laos-EU Working Group on Human Rights and Governance, held in Brussels today. [Foremost issues: rampant land grabbing and restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly, association, and religion as well as a credible investigation re human rights defender Sombath Somphone.

via EU Asked to Push for Improved Human Rights in Laos – Phuket Wan

UN High Commissioner condemns disappearance of Billy in context of retaliation against environmentalist in South East Asia

May 6, 2014

The disappearance of Karen activist “Billy” has prompted the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights UNHCHR to condemn the “pattern of killings and forced disappearances of environmental activists in Southeast Asia” and to urge authorities to conduct thorough and independent investigations. “We are concerned about the lack of progress with an investigation into the disappearance of a prominent human rights defender in Thailand,” UNHCHR spokesman Rupert Colville said in a statement released on Friday 2 May. Read the rest of this entry »

Protecting ASEAN human rights defenders and the case of Sombath Somphone

April 30, 2014

This radio interview [http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/international/radio/program/asia-pacific/whos-protecting-aseans-human-rights-defenders/1302596] is interesting because of its content but also because it found its way on the website of Terrorism Watch. If the implication is that forced disappearances are a form of state terrorism, the case of Sombath Somphone (discussed below) puts Laos in the docket:

A regional workshop in Bangkok has highlighted issues like enforced disappearances, legal support for families of the disappeared and peaceful assembly and association. High on the agenda is also protecting rights activists, within the ASEAN regional human rights system. Presenter: Sen Lam interviews Emmerlyne Gil, international legal advisor, International Commission of Jurists, Bangkok: Read the rest of this entry »

Filippines HRD wins Emilio Mignone award for work against enforced disappearances

December 23, 2013

(Mary Aileen Bacalso receiving the Award in Argentina from foreign Minister Hector Timerman)

Human rights defender Mary Aileen Bacalso from the Philippines received the Emilio F. Mignone International Human Rights Award in Argentina Tuesday last week for her advocacy work in her capacity as the secretary-general of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD). Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman presided over the ceremony, which was conducted at the Argentine Foreign Ministry. It was attended also by representatives from Argentine human rights organizations, and the family of human rights defender Emilio Mignone, after whom the award was named. [Mignone’s daughter Monica disappeared during the Argentine dictatorship]

Bacalso’s own husband was abducted by seven armed men in 1988.  He was released after being tortured and made to admit to the accusations, said Bacalso in a phone interview with InterAksyon.com. In 1998, she co-founded AFAD with two other organizations in India and Sri Lanka as a response to the problem of enforced disappearances in many parts of Asia. In Sri Lanka alone, there were 60,000 cases at the time, according to the AFAD website. From the beginning, they took pointers from and coordinated with human rights groups in Latin America which were formed in the 1980s to take action on enforced disappearances. AFAD now has 11 member-organizations from eight countries, with the main office based in the Philippines. They disseminate information, campaign for the ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, research and document cases, and accompany families of victims of enforced disappearances.

Aside from bringing them recognition, Bacalso said she hoped the award would also give them credibility as they try to convince governments in Asia and in the rest of the world to stop enforced disappearances.

In her acceptance speech, she recalled the adversity faced by those who fought for the rights of the victims of enforced disappearances. “AFAD’s own former Chairperson from Indonesia, Munir, who worked tirelessly for the cause of the disappeared, was poisoned by a lethal dose of arsenic in a flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam via Singapore.” “Our colleagues in Kashmir are persecuted in more ways than one, including non-issuance of passports to restrict their movement and block them from forging solidarity with sister organizations in other countries. “Our leaders in Bangladesh were recently arrested, their office raided and files and pieces of equipment stolen in a desperate attempt to silence them. “In Laos, almost a year ago, development worker Sombath Somphone was taken by the police in broad daylight as evidenced from the CCTV camera footage, yet despite the obvious proof, the Laos government denies knowledge of the victim’s whereabouts. His wife has gone from pillar to post and has knocked on doors of national and international bodies yet her husband is nowhere to be found.” “In the Asian region with a huge number of cases and where defenders face the danger of being disappeared themselves, this award, representing the support of the Argentinian government, is a strong protection to our work in our region,” Bacalso said.

for more information on the Mignone award go to the Digest of awards on: www.trueheroesfilms.org 

 

 

Filipina wins internationa™l rights award for advocacy against enforced disappearances – InterAksyon.com.

Huge number of NGOs call on Laos to investigate Sombath’s disappearance one year on

December 13, 2013

62 regional and international organizations expressed their outrage over the Lao Government’s ongoing failure to shed light on the enforced disappearance of prominent human rights defender Sombath Somphone. Sunday 15 December 2013 will mark the one-year anniversary of Sombath’s disappearance. Sombath was last seen on the evening of December 15, 2012 in Vientiane. Closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage showed that police stopped Sombath’s car at a police post. Within minutes after being stopped, unknown individuals forced him into another vehicle and drove away. Analysis of the CCTV footage shows that Sombath was taken away in the presence of police officers. This fact supports a finding of government complicity. Despite the Lao Government’s pledge to “thoroughly and seriously” investigate Sombath’s disappearance, the authorities’ probe has been inadequate and unproductive and there has been no progress in the investigation.

Sombath’s enforced disappearance is not an isolated incident. To this day, the whereabouts of nine people, two women, Kingkeo and Somchit, as well as seven men, SoubinhSouaneSinpasongKhamsoneNou,Somkhit, and Sourigna, arbitrarily detained by Lao security forces in November 2009 in various locations across the country remain unknown. The nine had planned peaceful demonstrations calling for democracy and respect of human rights. Also unknown are the whereabouts of Somphone Khantisouk, the owner of an ecotourism guesthouse and an outspoken critic of Chinese-sponsored agricultural projects that were damaging the environment in the northern province of Luang Namtha. He disappeared after uniformed men abducted him in January 2007. Signed by: Read the rest of this entry »