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Lao Prison Conditions Need to Be Improved, Human Rights Group Says - 2002-07-26


The Human rights organization, Amnesty International, has accused the government in Laos of torturing prisoners and denying them medical care. An Amnesty report issued Friday said the Lao government should seek international assistance to improve prison conditions. In its latest report, Amnesty International accuses Laos of routinely denying prisoners basic human rights by using torture and withholding medical care. The Amnesty report said the Lao judicial system is arbitrary and holds suspects without proper court hearings. Vientiane-based diplomats said the report echoes other human rights investigations. Demelza Stubbings is Amnesty International's Asia program director. "What we're trying to highlight today is the appalling conditions of detention in Lao prisons and torture and ill-treatment that is taking place as fairly routine practice," she said. Ms. Stubbings said the other issue is that legal and judicial safeguards needed to uphold prisoner rights are either absent or not enforced. "It doesn't make any difference what you're arrested for. Anybody who is arrested in Laos, be that for an alleged criminal offense or for some kind of religious or political dissent, is at risk," she said. A spokesman for the Lao Foreign Ministry calls the Amnesty report nonsense and says Laos has no reason to mistreat prisoners. Diplomats in Vientiane said a chief concern is that Lao authorities restrict access to the prisons, blocking independent assessments of the system. Amnesty is calling on the Lao government to seek international assistance and allow outside organizations to assess the system and help the government improve it.