Mar 25, 2016

Chittagong Hill Tracts: New Report Highlights Increase in Human Rights Violations

Photo Courtesy of The Daily Star

Kapaeeng Foundation’s annual report on the human rights of ethnic minorities living in Bangladesh has found that human rights violations are increasing against the country’s indigenous communities. The 2015 report found 13 extra-judicial killings, 74 arrests and 134 incidents of torture, as well as a number of incidents of destruction of property linked to land-grabbing. It also found that violence against indigenous women and girls has increased. At the publication of the report, speakers were highly critical of the role of the state and its institutions, in particular law enforcement, in perpetuating the violence and failing to protect the rights of the indigenous communities. 


Below is an article published by Dhaka Tribune:

Rights activists have expressed serious concerns over the persistent violation of human rights of the indigenous peoples living in the CHT and the plains for the last two decades.

They alleged that the subsequent governments were not sincere in improving the situation of the indigenous people, who, at times are treated as enemies of the state.

The views came at a programme arranged to present the Human Rights Report 2015 on the indigenous peoples at the capital's The Daily Star Centre yesterday. Kapaeeng Foundation published the report with support from Oxfam Bangladesh.

The speakers also strongly criticised the negative mindset of the government and alleged that the law enforcers and the security personnel had been behind most of the attacks on the indigenous peoples of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) and the plains.

“The indigenous peoples have been made marginalised by the state machinery. The state should take necessary actions to ensure human rights of all the people including the indigenous peoples of the country,” said Ain o Salish Kendra Executive Director Sultana Kamal, who was present as the chief guest.

“Democracy prevails when security is ensured for all the citizens, regardless gender, lifestyle or expressions,” she added.

Kapaeeng Foundation Executive Director Pallab Chakma presenting the annual report said that 13 indigenous peoples were killed extra-judicially in the CHT and the plains last year. Besides, at least 74 people including women and schoolgirls were arrested and false cases were lodged against 117 others.

During the same period, at least 134 indigenous peoples – 101 from the CHT and 33 from the plains – were tortured by influential Bangali non-state actors, and in many instances, members of the security forces and the law enforcement agencies played either supportive or passive roles in the commitment of such crimes, said Pallab.

Moreover, at least 84 houses belonging to the indigenous peoples in the plains were vandalised and looted while 35 houses in the plains and the CHT were set on fire and burnt to ashes by the land grabbers.

The report says that at least 85 indigenous women and girls fell victim to sexual and physical violence last year. Among them, 44 victims are from the CHT. Since 2007, a total of 434 indigenous women and girls were made victims of multiple forms of human rights violation.

In 2015, Kapaeeng Foundation documented at least 26 cases of rape and gang-rape, three killings, 11 physical assaults, 16 cases of attempted rape, five cases of abduction, six cases of sexual harassment and two cases of trafficking in the CHT.

Of the 69 cases of violence against indigenous women and girls, 38 were reported from and documented in the CHT.

The victims were aged between four and 50, the report says, adding that 78% of the perpetrators were non-indigenous and 15% indigenous. Some 6% of the violators could not be identified, while the law enforcers and security personnel were accused in 1% the offences.

The programme was presided over by Kapaeeng Foundation Chairman Rabindranath Soren. Bangladesh Adivasi Forum Secretary Sanjeeb Drong, Bangladesh Hindu-Buddhist-Christian Oikya Parishad General Secretary Rana Dasgupta and Bangladesh Mahila Parishad President Ayesha Khanam were also present among others.