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February 3, 2013

Minister of The Prime Minister’s Office
President of The National Assembly
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Minister of Public Security 

Vientiane, Lao Peoples’ Democratic Republic

CC: ASEAN Secretary General; ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights; EU Subcommittee on Human Rights 

Re:Status of investigation into the disappearance of Mr. Sombath Somphone

Dear Madams and Sirs:

We write to you once again on a matter of deepening urgency. It has now been six weeks since Mr. Sombath Somphone, founder and former Director of PADETC, was abducted from in front of a police post in Vientiane.  Since that time, numerous statements by the Lao Government have expressed concern about Mr. Sombath’s whereabouts and claimed authorities are seriously and urgently investigating the matter to arrive at the truth.

We note with great regret that to date, the Lao Government has provided virtually no updates about the investigation. On the contrary, reports from Vientiane indicate that false and slanderous rumours are being spread about why Mr. Sombath may have disappeared. Sombath Somphone is deeply respected both nationally and internationally for his integrity, honesty and service to his country. Suggestions of personal or business conflicts should be substantiated with credible evidence or retracted and rejected. Such minimal standards of legal process are surely Mr. Sombath’s due as a Lao citizen. 

Mr. Sombath’s abduction and the lack of progress of the official investigation has received tremendous international attention and is tarnishing the reputation of the Lao PDR, placing the country’s international profile in serious jeopardy.   As noted by the Lao Ambassador in Geneva, the Lao PDR is State party to seven core UN Human Rights Conventions and two Optional Protocols, and signatory to the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

Consequently, we once again urge the Lao Government to act in good faith, expedite its investigation into Mr. Sombath’s abduction, and  provide his family with meaningful updates on the progress of the investigation.

Swift actions by the Lao Government on this matter and the safe return of Mr. Sombath will surely bring credit to the country.