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Call for violence probe in Bangladesh’s Chittagong

Aug 27, 2013

“The role the security agencies have played in controlling the violence is questionable,” said Madhu Malhotra, a researcher of Bangladesh’s indigenous groups at Amnesty International.

Rights groups in Bangladesh are questioning whether state forces are effectively controlling violence in Bangladesh’s southeastern Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) region after a bloody month, and say renewed violence is a real threat there.

“The role the security agencies have played in controlling the violence is questionable. A thorough investigation needs to take place to determine if security forces have failed in their duty to protect civilian lives. If the findings of such an investigation show they have failed, those responsible should be brought to justice,” Madhu Malhotra, a researcher of Bangladesh’s indigenous groups at Amnesty International, said.

In July 2013 alone at least eight indigenous leaders were killed, local media reported.

While there have been historical clashes between Bengali settlers, the country’s main ethnic group, and the region’s more than one dozen indigenous groups, there has been increased infighting among indigenous communities in recent months.

Conflict background

In 1977, Shanti Bahini, the military wing of Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samiti (PCJSS), a pro-indigenous political party, began a 20-year armed struggle in part to gain autonomy.

The conflict ended with the signing of the 1997 CHT Accord, which recognized CHT as a “tribal inhabited” region, its traditional governance system and the role of its chiefs, as well as provided building blocks for indigenous autonomy.

But major clauses of the accord have not been implemented yet, according to activists. In a January 2013 report, PCJSS noted some 400 temporary military and paramilitary camps remain in CHT despite pledges to remove them.

And while a land commission to handle disputes has been created per the peace deal, it remains inactive. One of the accord’s essential clauses - the handing over of powers, including land management and control of local administration, from central government to the regional administration - remains unmet.

“There is frustration among the indigenous people for not implementing the peace accord. This frustration leads to instability in the region. The situation will deteriorate if a peace accord is not implemented,” Mesbah Kamal, secretary-general of the National Coalition for Indigenous People based in the capital, Dhaka, told IRIN.

Gowher Rizvi, an adviser to the prime minister, has said the government is working to implement the CHT accord, with “full implementation” in a few months, without detailing any timeline.

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Source: IRIN

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