The situation of human rights in Laos has often been, and remains a recognized cause for concern.
The Constitution that was promulgated in 1991 sean introduced this contains most key safeguards for human rights. For example, in Article 8 it makes it clear that Laos is a multiethnic state and is committed to equality between ethnic groups. The Constitution also has provisions for gender equality and freedom of religion, for freedom of speech, press and assembly. On 25 September 2009, Laos ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, nine years after signing the treaty. The policy objectives of both the Lao government and international donors remain focused toward achieving sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction.
However, Amnesty International has raised concerns about the ratification record of the Laos Government on human rights standards and its lack of cooperation with the UN human rights mechanisms and legislative measures which impact negatively on human rights. It has also raised concerns in relation to freedom of expression, poor prison conditions, restrictions on freedom of religions, protection of refugees and asylum-seekers and the death penalty.
The policy objectives of both the Lao government and international donors remain focused toward achieving sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction, but restrictions on freedom of expression and association are a source of concern. The barring of independent human rights monitors makes an exact appraisal of the situation impossible. In particular, the situation for groups of ethnic Hmong hiding in the jungle remains grave and leads to a steady stream of people taking refuge in neighboring Thailand. The death penalty remains in force, although no executions have been reported since 1989.
The U.S. State Department reports on human rights around the world declare that most Lao trials in 2003 were little more than pro forma examinations of the accused, with a verdict having already been reached. The State Department indicated that in some instances police administratively overruled court decisions, at times detaining a defendant exonerated by the court, in violation of the law. Moreover, while Lao law prohibits torture, members of the security forces reportedly subjected prisoners to torture and other abuses. A significant issue in human rights in Laos is the presence of anti-government rebels, mainly of the Hmong ethnic minority, who have reportedly been harshly treated by the Lao government. In its 2006 report the State Department mentions that "The government's overall human rights record worsened during the year." For more details see the report (link given below under "see also").
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