Chittagong Hill Tracts: NGO Protests Human Rights Violation in CHT
13 March 2006
Begum Khaleda Zia
Honorable Prime Minister
Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh
We are writing to express our serious concern regarding the arrest of six indigenous inhabitants by the army in the Khagrachari upazilla, Khagrachari district of the Chittagong Hills Tracts on 4th March 2006,and to urge their immediate release.
During our Peace Mission tour to the Chittagong Hill Tracts last month, the members of our tour, consisting of seven Japanese citizens,witnessed the road blockade and the indigenous inhabitants' protest against the army on Feb. 13th near Gamari Dhala on the Khagrachari-Mahalchari road. We have to say that we were shocked to see the illegal land occupation by the Bengali settlers with the visible support of the army, which would be expected to have stopped after the CHT accord in 1997. We feel greatly disturbed to learn that the leaders of the protest were arrested and severely beaten for their engagement in organizing a peaceful road blockade.
We are also shocked to hear that military personnel intervened into a cognizance court session on 5 March, placed firearms in the hands of two of the above-mentioned detainees, took snap-shots of the detainees in this state, and now the detainees are facing a false case of illegal weapons possession. Such naked disrespect of the court and interference into the judiciary system suggests that the civil administration is powerless in the face of the military authorities, who remain above the rule of law in the CHT region.
Since 1997, the concerned citizens of Japan have had high expectations that the Government of Bangladesh would take positive steps in returning lands to indigenous Jumma people and in seeking the solution to the conflict in the region. However, the situation we have witnessed with our own eyes is a complete retrogression, and against the letter and spirit of CHT accord, for which the Bangladesh government received international acclaim as a sign of its efforts to improve the human rights situation in the region.
Considering the above situation, we strongly urge the government to release the arrested people and withdraw the case against them. We also request the government to investigate the illegal occupation of land directly assisted by the army and return the land to the indigenous inhabitants.
Source: Takashi Shimosawa, President of Jumma Net Japan