Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 April 2014, 11:13 GMT

Laos: UN urges Government to ensure safe return of missing human rights defender

Publisher UN News Service
Publication Date 21 December 2012
Cite as UN News Service, Laos: UN urges Government to ensure safe return of missing human rights defender, 21 December 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/50dbf5372.html [accessed 23 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The United Nations today urged the Government of Laos to do everything possible to ensure that a prominent human rights defender who went missing a week ago is found safe and unharmed.

"We are concerned by what appears to be the enforced disappearance of Mr. Sombath Somphone," the spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Rupert Colville, told reporters in Geneva.

"We are highly concerned for his safety and believe that his abduction may be related to his human rights work," he added.

Mr. Somphone is the former director of the Participatory Development Training Centre, a non-governmental organization he founded in 1996 to promote education, training and sustainable development.

He was last seen on the evening of 15 December on his way home, according to OHCHR. Security camera footage reportedly shows that he was stopped at the police post in Vientiane, the capital, and was driven away in a car by men in civilian clothes. His family has been unable to locate him since then, despite repeated calls to the authorities and searches in the local area.

"We welcome the Government's recent statement that a serious investigation is underway, and urge the authorities to do everything possible to ensure that Mr. Somphone is found safe and unharmed," said Mr. Colville.

We are concerned by what appears to be the enforced disappearance of Mr. Sombath Somphone, a prominent human rights defender in the Lao People's Democratic Republic. We are highly concerned for his safety and believe that his abduction may be related to his human rights work.

Mr Somphone was last seen at about 6pm on 15 December 2012 on his way home. Security camera footage reportedly shows that he was stopped at the police post on Thadeua Road in Vientiane, the capital, and was then driven away in a car by men in civilian clothes. His family has been unable to locate him since then, despite repeated calls to the authorities and searches in the local area.

Mr. Somphone is the former director of the Participatory Development Training Centre, an NGO he founded in 1996 to promote education, training and sustainable development. In 2005, he won the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership, which is one of Asia's top civil awards, for his work in poverty reduction and sustainable development.

We welcome the Government's recent statement that a serious investigation is underway, and urge the authorities to do everything possible to ensure that Mr. Somphone is found safe and unharmed.

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