An examination of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) across two cycles (2009, 2014) reveals the following:
While Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) is guaranteed under the Constitution, serious limitations are imposed by the State;
Minority religions, notably Christians, face systematic discrimination and persecution; their right to FoRB is negatively impacted through bureaucratic restrictions; and
Laws intended to foster FoRB are in need of revision to clarify their meaning and to bring them in line with international standards.
Key UPR Recommendations on FoRB
The following recommendations were made on FoRB across two cycles:
Ensuring the right to practice religion freely without discrimination and in accordance with international human rights standards;
Amend the Decree on Religious Practice (Decree 92) to ease the registration of places of worship and allow new religious groups to obtain official recognition;
Ensure the protection of religious and other minorities and effectively investigate all alleged abuses and violations. In this regard, train local officials on FoRB;
Implement all recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur (SR) on Freedom of Religion; and
Ensure that relevant authorities at the local and district levels are aware of their duty to protect individuals’ right to FoRB.
Follow-up Action for Parliamentarians
Whereas the Government of Laos has noted its guarantees on FoRB, Parliamentarians must follow-up in order to:
Revise Decree 92;
Bring domestic law on FoRB in line with international legal standards and best practices;
Ensure a fair approval process for places of worship and new religious groups;
Enhance cooperation with the Special Rapporteur; and
Ensure greater awareness and local respect for FoRB.