Aug 01, 2012

Chittagong Hill Tracts: Urgent Appeal Continues

Minorities in Bangladesh are urging the international community to sign a petition that will be released on the World Indigenous Day on August 9, 2012 to highlight the violation of the Peace Accord signed by Dhaka but which has not progressed. 

Below is an appeal published by Global Human Rights Defence, Jumma Peoples Network, Kapaeeng Foundation:

The Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord was signed in Bangladesh in 1997 to promote peace and to protect its indigenous population. Today, almost 15 years later, it remains unfulfilled and violence against the indigenous peoples has continued.

Bangladesh has ratified numerous international human rights treaties and it is also the largest provider of UN Peacekeepers in the world. Despite this, it continues to violate the rights of minorities and its indigenous peoples. The indigenous people, known as Jumma in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), have been under attack for over 35 years, ever since the Government brought in large numbers of Bengali settlers onto their ancestral land. Influential settlers – supported by the military who are heavily deployed in the region – have been attacking the indigenous peoples who have lost their lands at an alarming rate and have endured endless human rights violations ever since.

The protection of indigenous peoples and the implementation of the 1997 Peace Accord was one of the key election pledges of the current Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina. Unfortunately, at the end of her mandate, it remains unfulfilled.  

We note with concern how violence against indigenous communities in the CHT has been escalating in recent months.

We are disturbed that this Government has rather taken regressive steps that work against the essence of the Accord, including publicly denying that there is an indigenous population in Bangladesh, refusal of giving constitutional recognition to indigenous groups and also recently demanding its district officials to take action against the celebration of World Indigenous Day. 

Therefore, we urge Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, to take immediate and urgent action to fulfill her election promise and fully implement the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord within this tenure, to ensure the protection of Jumma lives, land, identity and culture.

In particular:

Dismantle all temporary military camps in the CHT and demilitarize the region according to the Accord. Investigate and publicise all allegations of human rights violations against the indigenous peoples by the security forces. Solve the land disputes fairly; amend the Land Dispute Settlement Commission Act of 2001 according to the spirit of the Accord. Give constitutional recognition to the indigenous peoples of Bangladesh. 

Our call will be delivered to Governments in three countries on World Indigenous Day, August 9 [2012], in Dhaka, London and the Netherlands.

With the elections coming up in Bangladesh in 2014, there is a great fear that the CHT Peace Accord will remain unimplemented and that the situation will only worsen in the future, threatening the peace and existence of the indigenous peoples in Bangladesh! 

Take Action! Please help us distributing our message, and urge people to sign the petition  here