16 April, 2003
Statement by the Asian Legal Resource Centre – ALRC
On the right to reply of the Government of Laos to the statement on ‘Religious intolerance in Asia’ by ALRC at the fifty-ninth session of the UNCHR
The Asian Legal Resource Centre appreciates the right to reply of the Government of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic to its written statement on ‘Religious intolerance in Asia’ at the fifty-ninth session of the UN Commission on Human Rights (item 11[e], E/CN.4/2003/NGO/92).
The Asian Legal Resource Centre recognizes the commitment that the Government of Laos has made to uphold freedom of religion in its country, as guaranteed by its constitution. Notwithstanding, in Laos, as in other countries in Asia, a gap exists between stated commitment and actual implementation. Therefore, the Asian Legal Resource Centre has brought its concerns about religious freedom in Laos and other parts of Asia to the Commission.
The Asian Legal Resource Centre firmly believes that the situation of human rights in Asia can be made to improve only through public discussion and international attention. It further believes that the Commission is an invaluable forum for exchange of ideas and knowledge between states and societies, and it welcomes this opportunity to converse with the Government of Laos. (See further ALRC written statement, ‘Expanding NGO participation at the Commission on Human Rights’, E/CN.4/2003/NGO/139).
With regards to freedom of religion in Laos, the Asian Legal Resource Centre would like to suggest that the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief play a greater role in assessing conditions there, with particular attention to the rights of religious minorities. The Government of Laos may consider inviting the Special Rapporteur to visit the country.
As the Government of Laos has made assurances that it is upholding freedom of religion, the Special Rapporteur should also do everything possible to assist it towards this end. In particular, the Special Rapporteur may be able to offer advice and technical assistance on the setting up and improving of government institutions to ensure freedom of religion. These should include an independent authority to investigate alleged violations and provide effective remedies where it finds that persons’ rights have been violated.
Under article 2 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, the Government of Laos has agreed to provide effective remedies to victims of human rights. This is a pledge of vital importance that the Asian Legal Resource Centre has exhorted all governments in Asia to uphold. The Asian Legal Resource Centre looks forward to the practical steps that the Government of Laos will take, in keeping with article 2, to ensure that it honours its commitment to freedom of religion.
Asian Legal Resource Centre – ALRC, Hong Kong