Jun 01, 2009

Chittagong Hill Tracts: AI Report Details Injustices

Sample ImageAmnesty International (AI)’s report shows that the lack of respect for citizens’ rights in Bangladesh is also having a major impact on indigenous peoples.

Below is an article published by the Daily Star:

Indigenous people in Bangladesh suffered due to government policies while Bangla-speaking settlers continued to capture their land with the behind-the-scene support of the government, reads Amnesty International's (AI) annual report.

Right to fair trials continued to be undermined and was further exacerbated by emergency regulations, as defendants' access to due process of law was limited, the report mentioned regarding the state of emergency enforced during the caretaker government's rule.

"Behind the scene the government continued its steady support for Bangla-speaking settlers seizing land from Jumma indigenous inhabitants of the Chittagong Hill Tracts," the report added.

Regarding indigenous communities, the report quoting three UN rapporteurs said there might be a systematic campaign to support the relocation of non-indigenous people to the Chittagong Hill Tracts in order to outnumber the local indigenous people.

The report also mentioned excessive use of police force against peaceful demonstrations on several occasions.

AI Secretary General Irene Khan unveiling the report yesterday said incidents of violations of fundamental rights have been reported from across the globe due to the economic crisis.

"The governments in different states should not forget about their poor people while facing the economic crisis," Irene Khan said in an interview with the BBC.

According to the report, at least 54 people in Bangladesh were estimated to have died in suspected extra-judicial executions by police and the Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) in the first half of this year [2009] alone.

The report said according to the government mandatory judicial enquiries were carried out into all fatal shootings by police and Rab and those were found to be justified. The number of judicial enquiries conducted and the findings of such enquiries were not made public.

Regarding women the report said women continued to be discriminated in law and in practice and violence against women including beatings, acid attacks and dowry deaths were reported.

In March 2008, the government announced amendments to the National Women Development Policy in order to further promote equality for women but failed to have it implemented in the face of fierce resistance from Islamist groups who rallied in protest saying the amendments defied the Islamic law of inheritance.

During the time of emergency, police detained some 30,000 political activists of various parties for several months, either without charge and the opportunity for bail or by charging them with apparently unrelated criminal offences, the report said.

Thousands of slum dwellers were forcibly evicted in Dhaka and other major cities. Their homes were demolished without any provision for compensation or alternative accommodation. Court orders were usually issued to evict people from land allocated for property development projects.

The report observed that the government of Bangladesh continued to use the army, alongside the police, the Rab and other security forces to maintain law and order in the country.

"The army, which had been deployed to maintain law and order since January, 2007, was temporarily withdrawn in early November but redeployed on December 18 until after the elections," the report said.

The report said political struggle between the military-backed caretaker government and veteran political leaders dominated headlines in 2008.

The report also mentioned that hundreds of millions of people of countries in the Asia-Pacific region suffered from government policies.