The Hague, The Netherlands
URGENT APPEAL: Bangladesh: GHRD’s findings of fact finding mission to Chittagong Hill Tracts [UA-BA-08-06-2011]
ISSUES: Minority rights, Indigenous rights, Chittagong Hill Tracts, Right to Property, Rights to personal integrity, Destruction of houses and schools, Arson attacks
In May 2011, GHRD’s local partner in Bangladesh led a three day mission to the CHT region, speaking with members from over 100 Jumma families who were victims of arson attacks in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) region of Bangladesh which occurred in February and April of 2011. According to our partner, we are to date the only international human rights organization to investigate the attacks.
Our investigations found that 151 Jumma people were affected in the February attacks and 487 Jumma people in the April attacks, many of whom have lost their homes. All interviewees confirmed that on both occasions, security forces were present but failed to act to stop the violence, looking on as the destruction occurred. The involvement of the security forces and their open approval of the attacks must be fully condemned and investigated; however, the government of Bangladesh has thus far failed to adequately investigate this.
While the government has provided some compensation to the victims in the form of monetary compensation and foodstuffs, this is considered insufficient and many of those who lost their homes in the arson attacks continue to live in tents or temporary shelter. The authorities have also failed to investigate the attacks, despite identification of the main perpetrators of the violence. At the time of writing of this appeal no-one had yet been arrested in relation to these attacks.
During their investigations, 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. The authorities expressed suspicion towards having any international involvement in the CHT region and questioned our observers on whether they were linked to or received funding from any international organisation.
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 and implement the Accord.
GHRD appeals to the government of Bangladesh to increase efforts in the region to fully implement the 1997 CHT Peace Accord, to provide a forum for resolution of land disputes and to amend the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act 2001 to be consistent with the 1997 Accord.
In our February and April urgent appeals we urged the authorities to take similar actions to those listed below. While the government has provided some compensation to the victims and has visited the region soon after the attacks, a wider enquiry into the role of the security forces in the attacks and a thorough and impartial investigation identifying and holding accountable the main perpetrators has not yet occurred. GHRD therefore wishes to reiterate its concerns and urge the government of Bangladesh to:
1. Thoroughly and impartially investigate the attacks and identify the main perpetrators, bringing those responsible to justice. Ensure exemplary punishment of the perpetrators who were directly or indirectly involved in this violation of human rights.
2. Investigate the involvement of the security forces and Border Guards of Bangladesh in these attacks and punish those responsible for their failure to neither stop the attacks nor protect the indigenous residents.
3. Issue instructions to military, para-military, police and para-police personnel posted in the CHT to protect all communities without discrimination and to provide communities that have a recent history of such attacks or vulnerability special protection.
4. Take all measures to fulfil Awami League election promises by fully implementing the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord and providing a forum for solving land disputes.
Additional information and details can be made available to relevant organisations and individuals upon request. Please contact us if you require further information or clarification.
Global Human Rights Defence
Human Rights Division – Urgent Appeals Desk
Laan van Meerdervoort 702517 AN The Hague The Netherlands