Friday, July 15, 2011

Chittagong Hill Tract: Special Report on Violence Against Indigenous Jumma

Investigation into the February and April 2011 arson attacks against minority Jumma communities in the Chittagong Hill Tract illustrate how the Bangladeshi government has failed to uphold a major election promise to implement the 1997 Peace Accord.

JusticeMakers Bangladesh Trust (JMBangladesh), along with Global Human Rights Defence (GHRD), The Hague, The Netherlands have [provided a report of their recent] fact finding investigation into the arson attacks against minority Jumma communities in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) region of Bangladesh, which occurred in February and April of 2011.

In May 2011, JMBangladesh and GHRD’s local partner in Bangladesh, Advocate Shahanur Islam, led a Eight days mission to the CHT region, speaking with over 103 affected Jumma families. We are to date the only human rights organization to investigate the attacks.

Our investigations found that 165 people were affected in the February attacks and 551 people in the April attacks, the vast majority of whom were Jumma and have lost their homes. All interviewees confirmed that on both occasions, security forces were present but failed to act to stop the violence, looking on as the destruction occurred. The involvement of the security forces and their open approval of the attacks must be fully condemned and investigated; however, the government of Bangladesh as thus far failed to adequately investigate this.

While the government has provided some compensation to the victims in the form of monetary compensation and foodstuffs, this is considered insufficient and many of those who lost their homes in the arson attacks continue to live in tents or temporary shelter. The authorities have also failed to investigate the attacks, despite identification of the main perpetrators of the violence. At the time of writing of this appeal no-one had yet been arrested in relation to these attacks.

During their investigations, the fact finding team was approached and questioned on multiple occasions by members of the Border Guards of Bangladesh (BGB) and by the district special branch of police who requested information on the identity of the team, the organisation they worked for and purpose for their visit. The authorities expressed suspicion towards having any international involvement in the CHT region and questioned our observers on whether they were linked to or received funding from any international organisation.

Implementation of the 1997 Peace Accord was a major election promise of the ruling government, the Awami League. It is paramount that the government be held accountable for these promises and take action to bring peace to the region and implement the Accord.