21st Session of the Universal Periodic Review
Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
January 20, 2015
– as prepared –
The United States warmly welcomes the Lao delegation to the UPR Working Group.
We remain deeply concerned about the human rights situation in Laos, including severe restrictions on freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, association, and religion, as well as the right to take part in periodic and genuine elections.
We are concerned that the amended Prime Minister’s Decree on civil society organizations (CSOs) will further limit civil society space in Laos, particularly since the disappearance of Sombath Somphone in December 2012.
We are concerned that the September Prime Minister’s Decree criminalizing the spread of “false” information about the government online will be used to unduly limit the right to freedom of expression, particularly expression critical of the government.
We are concerned by reports that during the past year Christians have been banished from their villages and arrested because of disagreements with local authorities over the practice of their religion or the proper registration of their places of worship. The government should further train local officials on the right of all individuals in Laos to freely manifest their religion or belief in worship and practice, in accordance with the country’s international obligations and commitments.
With these concerns in mind, we recommend that Laos:
- Reconsider decrees and guidelines that are overly burdensome on domestic and international civil society organizations through lengthy and opaque registration requirements, taxation, or other means.
- Promote the development of a free and open Internet by amending the Prime Minister’s Decree, which appears to unduly limit the right to freedom of expression online.
- Amend the Prime Minister’s Decree on Religious Practice (Decree 92) to ease the process for religious groups to register their places of worship and allow new religious groups to obtain official recognition.