Bangladeshi Army Enjoys Absolute Impunity in CHT

-John Tripura

There is no respect for human life in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). The armed forces in CHT think themselves placed at the elevated status of impunity by the legislation and think wrongly they are given licence to do whatever they like. Twenty-two years have passed since abduction of Kalpana Chakma, the then organising secretary of the Hill Women’s Federation (HWF), an organisation of indigenous Jumma women of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, was abducted from her Baghaichhari house in Rangamati on June 11, 1996 by the Bangladesh Army, but the case has yet to be solved. The cases point to growing culture of impunity within the security services as it appears reluctant to take on their own.The blatant disregard for human rights by the Bangladeshi armed forces in CHT is evil. Through their most recent actions, the BD Army demonstrated that there is institutional support with the promise of reward and not punishment for their troops on the ground in CHT to torture, abuse and murder the local population. The decision is not surprising because it is in line with a growing effort by the Bangladesh Army to encourage and reward their soldiers for committing heinous atrocities against the Jumma people of CHT. This is part of a larger strategy to suppress the voice and their right to self-determination. The impunity enjoyed by Bangladesh Army personnel is by design. There is a legal framework that grants them exemption from prosecution.

Moreover, if we see the recent incident on 22 January 2018, at about 2:30 am, an indigenous Marma girl, 17, was raped at her own home at Orachari village of Farua Union under Bilaichari upazila in Rangamati district allegedly by members of Farua Army Camp. During the same time, her younger sister, 15, was also sexually harassed by the men of the security force. But the most interesting part is still today not a single case was filed against the perpetrators but rather they are trying to propagate the issue against the indigenous Jumma peoples. As we all know that the victim sisters of Bilaichari in Rangamati have been denied release by police and hospital authority of Rangamati General Hospital from their custody. Despite repeated attempts by the elected lawmaker and other dignitaries of Rangamati, the victims are still in the hospital, while passing their days in deep fear and insecurity. Instead of taking action against the perpetrators rather they are trying to scare the victims in the name of fake security concern. There shall be no colors and no uniforms of the rapists in the society.  According to the different reliable news we can see that the media reports also indicate that journalists seeking to speak with the victims at the hospital have been placed under police surveillance. These kind of evil acts are happening again and again in CHT because we failed to bring the perpetrators under the book within the legal framework, and also because the state failed to establish the rule of law in every sector of the country with equal treatment for all the citizens. But I will say to my victim sisters don’t worry we are with you and we are fighting for your justice.

Due to these kinds of incidents, there is massive mistrust regarding the actions of the Bangladesh government and army and it is only getting worse even after 20 years of signing the CHT Accord. Impunity is a long-standing problem in CHT and that is because due to the lack of political will to account for past and present actions of the security forces. There is a shared responsibility among all international states and institutions to apply pressure on the Bangladesh government and military to put an end to the inhumanity with which they have treated the CHT Jumma population. The Jumma people of CHT are looking to the international community as their last and only hope and we must not fail them.

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