PRESS RELEASE: Government security forces stand idle as indigenous communities attacked in Bangladesh

15-06-2011

Houses burnt to ashes in arson attack on Jumma minority communities in Rangamati and Khagrachari, Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh.

Over one hundred houses and one school were burnt to ashes in two different attacks against indigenous minority communities in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh in February and April leaving hundreds of indigenous men women and children injured and homeless. The attacks were instigated by some 200-300 Muslim Bengali settlers, following the death of a Bengali settler, Saber Ali, which the settlers blamed the indigenous people for. There is suspicion that Saber Ali was killed by the Bengali settlers to provide an excuse to evict the indigenous peoples from the area. 

Government security forces were present but did nothing to stop the attacks; rather they stood by passively and watched. Instead of promoting transparent investigations and reporting, the government proclaimed an ‘emergency curfew’ prohibiting any access to the area following the attacks. 

In May 2011, Global Human Rights Defence’s (GHRD) local partner in Bangladesh, the only human rights organization to do so, led an undercover mission to the area investigating the attacks and took witness statements from many of the victims. 

While the government has provided some compensation to the victims in the form of money (5000 Bangladesh taka per family – the equivalent of 46 euros) and foodstuffs, this is insufficient and many of those who lost their homes continue to live in tents or temporary shelter. The authorities have also failed to fully investigate the attacks or bring those responsible to justice, despite identification of the main perpetrators of the violence. At the time of writing of this press release no-one had yet been arrested.   

During our team’s investigations, the local authorities expressed strong suspicion towards any international involvement in the region. Our observers were approached and questioned on multiple occasions by members of the Border Guards of Bangladesh (BGB) and by the district special branch of police who requested information on the identity of the team, the organisation they worked for and purpose for their visit.

Land grabbing and disputes over land continue to be the main reason for attacks by Bengali settlers against the Jumma in the CHT region. Implementation of the 1997 Peace Accord was a major election promise of the ruling government, the Awami League. It is paramount that the government be held accountable for these promises and take action to bring peace to the region implement the Accord, and protect the homes and security of the indigenous peoples in the region. 

GHRD collected police reports, photos and video statements from the location and is available to provide additional information upon request. 

If you would like more information please contact: 

Jenny Lundström

Human Rights Officer

Global Human Rights Defence 

Laan van Meerdervoort 702517 AN The Hague, The Netherlands

Tel: +31 (0)70 3450692

Email: jlundstrom@remove-this.ghrd.org


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