UPDF leaders meet with Amnesty International team

LEADERS of the United People’s Democratic Front (UPDF) have met with a visiting team of the international human rights group Amnesty International.
The UPDF leaders highlighted the political repression on its members and supporters and sought AI intervention in preventing human rights violations in the CHT.

In a written statement handed to the AI delegates, UPDF says:
“Political repression on UPDF and its front organisations has become a common feature of the CHT situation. Its rallies and processions are regularly attacked. The army has sealed off four unit offices of the UPDF, namely, Rajstali, Belaichari, Naniachar and Kudukchari.”

Amnesty International’s South Asia researcher Abbas Faiz said he would raise the issues, especially the ban on rallies and processions in Khagrachari, at his meeting with government officials.

The other members of the AI team include Andrew Erueti, Director of Ain O Salish Kendra Md. Noor Khan and Fahmina Rahman.

The UPDF was represented by Pradipan Khisha, Ujwal Smriti Chakma, Kalo Priya Chakma, Aongay Marma and Rina Dewan.

The full text of the statement follows:

Statement to the visiting members of the Amnesty International United People’s Democratic Front (UPDF) - Khagrachari District Unit - March 5, 2011

1. Human rights violation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts continues. The army, paramilitary personnel and illegal Bengali settlers are involved in right violations. The attack on two Jumma villages in Longudu on 17 February is a case in point. At least 22 houses belonging to the Jumma people and a Para Kendra (village centre) were set afire in this attack. Four Jummas were also beaten up.

2. Army in Laxmichari continues to patronize a vigilante group popularly known as Borkha Party. This group was created in 2009 by then Laxmichari Zone Commander Lt. Col. Shariful Islam. Members of this group are responsible for the death of UPDF leader Rui Khoi Marma
on 2 October 2009. The main purpose of the creation of the Borkha Party is to counter the growing influence of the UPDF.

On 25 February, the army and Borkha Party attacked a reception hosted by PCP and HWF for those students who came out successful in JSC (Junior School Certificate) and primary school examinations. At least 15 persons including women were injured. The programme was foiled.

The Borkha Party members stay in Khiram army camp under Laxmichari Zone. They are also allowed to use a club house named Anirban belonging to the army at Khiram bazaar.

The army and Borkha Party members regularly carry out joint operations in the Jumma villages and harass the villagers.

3. Political repression on UPDF and its front organisations has become a common feature of the CHT situation. Its rallies and processions are regularly attacked. The army has sealed off four unit offices of the UPDF, namely, Rajstali, Belaichari, Naniachar and Kudukchari.

The Khagrachari administration imposed ban on rallies and public meetings in Khagrachari district following the 23 February 2010 attack on Jumma inhabited areas in Khagrachari town. The decision on the ban was taken at a review meeting on law and order in which no UPDF
members were invited. This ban still continues. The ban is applicable for those parties and organisations which are not registered with the Election Commission. This is a clear case of discrimination. UPDF wrote to the district administration to inform it in writing whether
the media reports on the ban were true. But the authorities did not bother to reply to our letter.

4. Arrest of the members of the UPDF and its front organisations has not stopped. Mikel Chakma, spokesperson of the UPDF and member secretary of the Democratic Youth Forum, was arrested by Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) from Chittagong on February 8, 2011. The JSS (Santu faction) members in Chittagong helped the RAB to arrest him. They put two pipe guns and Yaba drugs into his bag while he was in toilet and asked RAB members to arrest him.

5. Repression on Jumma women has become a festering problem in the CHT. There is no security for them. Nowhere are they safe. They cannot go fetch water from streams, graze their cows in the field, go in the jungle to collect firewood, visit temples and relatives; they cannot even stay home alone. Wherever they are, they are targeted for sexual assaults, especially rape, by the army and settlers. No one is spared – from 4-year old girls to 80-year old women, all are raped. Even thephysically challenged girls and women are not spared.

Until and unless the army and settlers are withdrawn, human rights violations including rape and repression of Jumma women will not cease.

6. Land grabbing has also become a regular phenomenon. An attempt by illegal Bengali settlers to occupy land in Mahalchari on 5 December 2010 prompted the Jumma villagers to block Khagrachari – Rangamati link road the next day. The settlers, who were backed by the army, had to retreat in the face of protests. Similar incident also took place in Naniachar and Longudu Upazilas in Rangamati district.

7. We appeal to the Amnesty International to urge the government to take the following measures:

a. To immediately stop human rights violations in the CHT including repression of Jumma women.
b. To stop political persecution of the UPDF and its front organisations and to withdraw the ban on rallies and demonstrations in Khagrachari district.
c. To order an independent and impartial inquiry headed by a High Court judge into the 17 February Longudu attack and bring the perpetrators to justice and pay adequate compensation to the victims.
d. To stop land grabbing and return the grabbed lands to their rightful owners and to provide constitutional recognition to the customary land laws of the Jumma people.
e. To agree to receive financial assistance from European Union to rehabilitate the illegal Bengali settlers outside of the CHT.
f. To withdraw the army from the CHT.
bron : chtnews.com

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