Sep 25, 2017

UNPO Submits Reports for Universal Periodic Reviews of Azerbaijan and Bangladesh

Photo Courtesy of United States Mission Geneva

On Thursday 21 September 2017, UNPO submitted two reports to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the occasion of its 30th Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Session scheduled to take place in May 2018. During this session, the Republic of Azerbaijan and the People’s Republic of Bangladesh will be under consideration for their 3rd UPR Cycle. UNPO’s reports call attention to human rights violations occurring in both countries, with an emphasis on the situation of the Talysh and Lezghin minorities in Azerbaijan and on indigenous peoples in the Chittagong Hill Tracts region (CHT) of Bangladesh. 

The first report focuses on the violations of the cultural, educational, religious and economic rights and freedom of expression endured by Talysh and Lezghin minorities in Azerbaijan. In the aftermath of the Nagorno-Karabakh war, the country began to show increasing intolerance towards pro-independence movements and became increasingly wary of recognising any minority ethnic identity. Since then, Baku has maintained an assimilation policy that has led to the depletion and further suppression of distinct ancient indigenous groups such as the Talysh and the Lezghin.  Even though the Azerbaijani government incorporated key fundamental rights in its national constitution and ratified the main international human rights treaties, the report clearly shows Baku’s repressive policies towards indigenous minorities and proves Azerbaijan’s reluctance to comply with its legal obligations when it comes to the protection of these vulnerable groups.

Among the recommendations that UNPO urges the Azerbaijani government to consider are:

1. To give a comprehensive definition of “national minority”, thus providing legal status to minority groups;

 2. To stop assimilation policies in minority areas and adhere to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages;

 3. To conduct an accurate census of the population taking into account minority groups;

4. To adopt comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation on gender, ethnicity and religion to adequately protect religious and ethnic minorities in the country;

5. To release human rights defenders and civil society activists held on ethnicity and politically-motivated charges including Hilal Mammadov;

6. To promote minority education through the construction of schools, the development of modern educational material with minority dialects as compulsory languages and accurate training for minority language teachers.

The second UPR report calls attention to the precarious situation of the indigenous communities living in the CHT in Bangladesh, spanning the violation of territorial rights, the violence committed towards indigenous peoples and the lack of justice and freedoms in the area.  Indigenous groups have lived peacefully in the CHT for centuries. Yet, the government's discriminatory policies and the increasing number of Bengali settlements since the 1970s have led to an escalation of the conflict between the native population and the government.

Today, indigenous peoples in the CHT are subjected to a number of human rights violations including rape, torture, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and significant displacement due to arson attacks being carried out by Bengali settlers. After a long struggle, the indigenous Jumma people and the government of Bangladesh negotiated the signing of the 'CHT Accord' on 2 December 1997, which aimed at resolving the CHT crisis through political and peaceful means. However, almost twenty years later the CHT Accord remains largely unimplemented.

UNPO has proposed a number of recommendations to the Government of Bangladesh, among which:

1. To fully implement the 1997 CHT Accord giving priority to the devolution of authority to the CHT Regional Council and three Hill District Councils, the resolution of land disputes, the withdrawal of all temporary camps and de facto military rule ‘Operation Uttoron’ from CHT and the relocation of government-sponsored Bengali settlers outside the CHT, among others;

2. To recognise Jummas as indigenous peoples in the CHT and ratify the 1989 ILO Convention No. 169 on indigenous and tribal peoples;

3. To endorse the United Nations Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;

4. To respect the freedoms of expression, speech and peaceful assembly of the Jumma people and lift the restrictions on NGOs and human rights defenders to visit the CHT;

5. To bring to justice the perpetrators of forced evictions, looting, murder, and rape against indigenous communities in the CHT and ensure the accountability of law enforcement agencies’ members involved in such crimes.


You can access the reports here: