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Laos: UN expert calls on the government to release three anti-corruption and environmental activists after five years of alleged arbitrary detention

'Lao PDR: Five years after arrest, human rights defenders still denied access to lawyers – UN expert', 12 April 2021

A UN expert called on the Government of Lao PDR to immediately release three human rights defenders who have been detained for more than five years, saying their continued imprisonment was an impediment to the advancement of human rights in the South-East Asian nation. A court in the capital, Vientiane, sentenced Ms. Lodkham Thammavong , Mr. Soukane Chaithad and Mr. Somphone Phimmasone to prison terms of up to 30 years in 2017 after they took part in a demonstration outside the Lao Embassy in Thailand to express concerns over the government’s human rights record. The three, who were arrested in March 2016, had also posted messages on social media criticizing the Government. Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, said the activists had not only been deprived of their liberty, but also their right to a fair and free trial... none of the above human rights defenders have had access to their lawyers... [The] three human rights defenders have been criminalised and sentenced respectively to 12, 16 and 30 years imprisonment in retaliation for their legitimate human rights work and criticism of the Government’s alleged human rights violations, corruption and deforestation...