government: communist state
state of civil and political rights: Not free
constitution: 14 August 1991
legal system: based on customary laws and the French system
legislative system: unicameral National Assembly
judicial system: Supreme People's Court
religion: Buddhist 65%, animist 32.9%, Christian 1.3%, other and unspecified 0.8%
methods of execution: Firing squad
death row: at least 89 (www.deathpenalty.org)
year of last executions: 0-0-1989
death sentences: 0
international treaties on human rights and the death penalty:
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Convention on the Rights of the Child
Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (signed only)
The death penalty in Laos is applied in cases of treason, espionage, terrorism, robbery, kidnapping, economic crimes and murder.
On April 9, 2001 the National Assembly passed an amendment to the country’s 1990 Criminal Code that introduced the death penalty for drug trafficking. The amended law included capital punishment for producers, distributors, smugglers and anyone found in possession of heroin, as well as traffickers of amphetamines and methamphetamines. A death sentence would be assured to those found in possession of more than 500 grams of heroin, or more than three kilograms of methamphetamines. Before the amendments prison terms for drug offenders ranged from life to ten years, depending on the amount found in possession. Laos is the world’s third-largest producer of opium and has been used as a production base for methamphetamines. The government has vowed to turn the country into a "drug-free zone" by the year 2015.
Prison conditions are generally extremely harsh and life threatening. Food rations are minimal, and prisoners are sometimes subjected to torture and other abuses by members of the security forces. Credible sources have reported that detainees were subjected to beatings, long-term solitary confinement in completely darkened rooms, and burning with cigarettes. In some cases, detainees were held in leg chains or wooden stocks.
No executions have taken place since 1989 according to government officials. However, 20 death sentences were imposed in 2015, according to Amnesty International.
On 20 January 2015, Laos was reviewed under the Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council. In its National Report, the Government informed that, in the process of creating a new Penal Code, the list of offenses subject to capital punishment under the current Penal Law will be revised to be in full compliance with Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. However, the Government said the country still needed to retain the death penalty as an exceptional measure with the objective of deterring and preventing the most serious criminal offences. Although Criminal Law provides for the death penalty Laos has practiced a moratorium on its use for many years, and every year the President of the Republic grants amnesties, sentence reductions or pardons to a large number of inmates, said the Government.
On 19 December 2016, Laos again abstained on the Resolution for a Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty at the UN General Assembly. The death penalty in Laos is applied in cases of treason, espionage, terrorism, robbery, kidnapping, economic crimes and murder.