Alert Libya: Law against cybercrime threatens human rights
Bangladesh
14.07.09
Urgent Interventions

Bangladesh: Reported extrajudicial killing in the Chakma Community, Chittagong Hill Tracts

BGD 100709 / OMCT ACTION FILE: BGD 100709.ESCR
BANGLADESH: OMCT CALLS FOR ACTION ON REPORTED EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLING
IN CHAKMA INDIGENOUS COMMUNITY, CHITTAGONG HILL TRACTS

The International Secretariat of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) has received reliable information concerning the extrajudicial killing of a member of the Chakma indigenous community in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), Bangladesh, on 26 June 2009.

According to the information received, on 26 June 2009, Mr. Tarun Kusum Chakma, a member of the Chakma indigenous community and an active supporter of the indigenous political party Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti, (PCJSS), was pursued and shot by a group of soldiers. Earlier in the day, Mr. Tarum Kusum had been detained and released due to lack of evidence against him. His body was found with a broken neck, several wounds, and bullet injuries on his leg and scrotum, which suggest he was subjected to torture prior to his death.

The killing of Mr. Tarun Kusum Chakma is part of the growing number of atrocities due to the increased militarisation and conflict in the CHT. The PCJSS has suffered violence at the hands of the military and rival indigenous parties since it signed the 1997 CHT Peace Accords with the Government of Bangladesh. The Accords were meant to resolve the occupation of indigenous lands by Bengali settlers, but the Government has failed to implement key provisions of the Accords, including the return of land taken from indigenous peoples and the withdrawal of temporary army camps from the area. As a result, extra-judicial killings, arbitrary arrest, military operations and expansion of Bengali settler villages have been documented and continue unabated in the CHT.

OMCT calls upon the Government of Bangladesh to implement a prompt, effective, thorough, independent and impartial investigation of the death of Mr. Tarun Kusum Chakma, the result of which must be made public. It also urges the Government to respect its obligations under the CHT Peace Accords of 1997 to end de-facto military rule and protect the indigenous communities of Chittagong Hill Tract from violence and land dispossession.

The Situation

30-year-old Mr. Tarun Kusum Chakma, an active supporter of the PCJSS, was residing in Moitreenagar, Rangamati municipality, Chittagong Hill Tract with his family. According to the information received, on Friday 26 June 2009 around 09:30, as he was headed towards Shuvalong Bazaar for marketing, he was detained and handed over to the Shuvalong military camp for interrogation, reportedly by members of a rival political party. Having found no evidence to detain him during interrogation, the military released him.

According to witnesses, as he returned to the Bazaar, Mr. Tarun Kusum Chakma was pursued once again. He jumped into the lake near the Shuvalong forest outpost in an attempt to escape, but was pursued by a group of soldiers, led by a Warrant Officer and Corporal of 6 Bengal, and other men in two boats. The army repeatedly shot at him as he reached land, causing bullet injuries on his leg and scrotum. His body was found near Shuvalong Bazaar. Photos of his body also show evidence of torture, including a broken neck and severe wounds.

Military authorities have issued several versions of the incident that were distributed to the local and national media. The army variously claimed that Mr. Tarun Kusum Chakma was killed while leading an armed group in terrorist activities, in an attack on military forces, or by a rival group. Statements by witnesses and indigenous organizations contradict these official versions. Witnesses who were at the market at the time of the event reported to have seen Mr. Tarun Kusum Chakma caught there and handed over to the army with no provocation. The victim’s younger brother Palash Chakma stated that he was not involved in terrorist activity of any kind, and that he was fully innocent of the charges of leading an armed group.

Economic, social and cultural rights and violence in the Chittagong Hill Tracts

The Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), situated in the South-East of Bangladesh, have been home to a number of indigenous groups for hundreds of years. However, over the last 25 years or so, successive Governments have encouraged the migration of a large number of non-tribal Bengali people to the CHT. As a result, land disputes together with the threat to the indigenous communities’ customs and traditions has led to violence and armed conflict. A Peace Accord signed in 1997 between the Government of Bangladesh and the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS), whilst ending the armed conflict, has not put an end to the human rights violations against the indigenous communities. The Peace Accord provides for the establishment of a Land Commission to resolve the CHT land disputes. However, more than ten years have passed since the Peace Accord was signed and no single land dispute has been resolved. As a result, conflicts relating to land disputes between the indigenous communities and Bengali settlers occur frequently in the CHT. Further, the Government has failed to implement some of the other key provisions of the Peace Accord, including the rehabilitation of all returned refugees and internally displaced families, return of land taken away from the indigenous people during the conflict, withdrawal of non-permanent army camps from the CHT and transfer of some powers to the CHT Regional Council. The indigenous communities continue to be marginalised in economic, social and political terms. In effect, the CHT remains a highly militarised area, with the military dominating the administration of the CHT, severely restricting the movement of civilians through excessive security and search operations and harassing the local indigenous communities.

The situation in the CHT has deteriorated since the imposition of the State of Emergency in Bangladesh on 11 January 2007. The settlement of non-tribal Bengalis in the CHT has considerably increased, with the direct involvement of the Bangladesh armed forces. This has resulted in rising tension in the area, not only between the military and indigenous communities, but also among indigenous groups. Since 1997, rival indigenous groups have engaged in violence targeted at the PCJSS and other supporters of the Accord.

The death of Mr. Tarun Kusum Chakma is part of a pattern of violence that has resulted from the land and resource conflicts in the CHT. Extra-judicial killings, arbitrary arrests, and military operations to aid Bengali settlers occupying indigenous land have been documented and continue unabated in the area. It has been said that the Rangamati Brigade Authority of the Bangladesh Army is conducting an internal departmental inquiry, but as of this writing no evidence of such inquiry has been found.

Requested Actions

The International Secretariat of the OMCT is gravely concerned about the death of Mr. Tarun Kusum Chakma, as well as the ongoing land dispossession and resulting violence in the CHT. OMCT has previously documented arson attacks by Bengali settlers against Indigenous communities in the Sajek Union area of the CHT (see appeal BGD 290808.ESCR at www.omct.org). OMCT calls upon the authorities to launch a prompt, effective, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into these events, the result of which must be made public, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them to trial and apply the penal and/or administrative sanctions as provided by law. OMCT also urges the Government to fulfil its obligations under the CHA Peace Accords of 1997, including the establishment of a Land Commission and demilitarisation of the CHT.

OMCT wishes to draw attention to the fact that, under Article 11 of the International Labour Organisation's Indigenous and Tribal Populations Convention 1957 (No. 107)1, Bangladesh has a duty to recognise “the right of ownership, collective or individual, of the members of the populations concerned over the lands which these populations traditionally occupy.”

Please write to the Government of Bangladesh urging it to:

  1. Order a prompt, effective, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the death of Mr. Tarun Kusum Chakma, the result of which must be made public, in order to identify those responsible, bring them to trial and apply the civil penal and/or administrative sanctions as provided by law.
  2. Ensure that adequate, effective and prompt reparation, including adequate compensation, is granted to the victim’s family.
  3. Put an immediate stop to all attacks against indigenous communities and individuals in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
  4. Take immediate action to implement CHT Peace Accord of 1997.
  5. In accordance with the CHT Peace Accord 1997:
    a) Activate the Land Commission, to review and settle all land disputes;
    b) Withdraw temporary military camps and military rule from the CHT; and
    c) Enable full functioning of the civil administration, including through effective functioning of the CHT Regional Council.
  6. Report publicly on the actions to be taken to implement these recommendations.

List of addresses

Government of Bangladesh and other Bangladeshi institutions

  • Ms. Sheikh Hasina, Honourable Prime Minister, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Prime Minister’s Office, Tejgaon, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Fax: +880 2 8113243 / 3244 / 1015 / 1490, Email: Info@pmo.gov.bd, E-mail: pm@pmo.gov.bd <mailto:pm@pmo.gov.bd> or psecy@pmo.gov.bd <mailto:psecy@pmo.gov.bd>
  • Mr. Mohammad Ruhul Amin, Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Bangladesh, Supreme Court Building, Ramna, Dhaka-1000, BANGLADESH, Fax: +880 2 956 5058, Tel: +880 2 956 2792
  • Dr. Dipu Moni, Honourable Minister, Foreign Ministry, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Dhaka, Fax: +880 2 9558566, Tel: 956-28521. http://www.ilo.org/ilolex/cgi-lex/convde.pl?C107. Bangladesh ratified this Convention on 22 June 1972.
  • Ms. Sahara Khatun, Honourable Minister, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Bangladesh Secretariat, Dhaka, BANGLADESH, Fax:+88-02-7160405, 88-02-7164788 (O), Tel: +88-02-7169069 (O)
  • Mr. Dipankar Talukdar MP, Honourable State Minister, CHT Affairs Ministry, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Bangladesh Secretariat, Dhaka, BANGLADESH, Tel: +880-2- 7161774, E-mail: mochtadh@bttb.net
  • Ms. Sajeda Chowdhury, Convenor of CHT Accord Implementation Committee and Deputy Leader of Jatiya Sangsad, Jatiya Sangsad Bhabab, Tejgaon, Dhaka, BANGLADESH
  • Mr. Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma, Chairman, CHT Regional Council, Rangamati, Chittagong Hill Tracts, BANGLADESH, Tel: +88-0351-63381, Fax: 0351-63278, E-mail: chtrc@yahoo.com
  • Mr. Promod Mankin, MP and Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee on CHT Affairs Ministry, Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban, Dhaka, BANGLADESH
  • Justice (Rtd) Amirul Kabir Chowdhury, Chairman, Bangladesh National Human Rights Commission, House # 6/3, Block # D, Lalmatia, Dhaka, BANGLADESH, Tel: +88 02 9137724
  • General Md Abdul Mubeen, Chief of Army Staff, Bangladesh Army, Army Headquarters, Dhaka Cantonment, Dhaka, BANGLADESH, Fax: +880 2 875 4455, Tel: +880 2 987 0011, E-mail: itdte@army.mil.bd
  • Mr. Nur Mohammad, Inspector General of Police (IGP), Bangladesh Police, Police Headquarters', Fulbaria, Dhaka-1000, BANGLADESH, Fax: +880 2 956 3362 / 956 3363, Tel: +880 2 956 2054 / 717 6451 / 717 6677, E-mail: ig@police.gov.bd

Please also write to the embassies of Bangladesh in your respective country. Information on action taken and follow-up Kindly inform OMCT of any action undertaken quoting the code number of this appeal in your reply. Geneva, 10 July 2009

Sign up now

Subscribe to our latest news & alerts