Petition from participants at Asia-Europe People’s Forum 10

Presented to the ASEM Heads of State and Government on 16th October 2014, in Milan, Italy

On December 15 2014, it will be two years since the enforced disappearance of Sombath Somphone. For those familiar with the Lao PDR and Southeast Asia, and those who participated iin the AEPF 2012 in Vientiane, Sombath needs no introduction.

Sombath was abducted from a police booth on a busy Vientiane road on the evening of December 15 2012. His abduction was captured by a CCTV camera and the footage shows Sombath’s jeep being stopped at the police booth, the jeep being driven away by a third person and Sombath being taken away in pick up truck. Tracing the vehicle, identifying the perpetrators and locating Sombath would not have been difficult for criminal investigators.

But almost two years since Sombath was disappeared, the Lao Government has provided no meaningful information to Sombath’s family, friends and the Lao public about the abduction. Instead, successive statements and actions by the Lao Government indicate a continuing denial of its basic responsibility and obligations. The only rational conclusion that can be drawn is that there has been no investigation.

The Lao PDR depends heavily on international aid and in the lead up to its annual Roundtable scheduled for November 2014, the Lao Government is requesting even more financial support from the international community. But it has refused offers of technical forensic support to analyse the CCTV camera footage. When asked about the investigation into Sombath’s abduction by people from outside the country, the Government claims that this is an internal matter.

Enforced disappearance is never an internal matter in any country. It is a contravention of international law and widely held to be a crime against humanity. Sombath’s family and friends and the people of Laos have the right to the truth, to know what happened to Sombath. Sombath and his family have the right to justice.

We remind all ASEM member states of their human rights obligations, both domestically and internationally. We sincerely demand that the Lao Government to complete their invesrigation on Sombath’s disappearance, make public the investigation report, and take forward legal process against the perpetrators of the crime. We urge ASEM member states to monitor the fulfilment of these demands and ensure that Sombath and his family receive the justice that is surely their right.

Asia Europe People’s Forum 10 – Milan,  October 12, 2014