Bangladesh: Impunity reigns for human rights violations against Santal indigenous people

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Dhaka, Paris, 25 July 2017: Bangladesh must put an end to impunity for violent attacks on indigenous communities, FIDH, Odhikar and the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) said in a joint report published today.

The report, entitled “Slap on the wrist: Impunity for human rights violations against Santal community members in Bangladesh”, is the product of a fact-finding mission conducted by Odhikar from 19 to 22 November 2016.

The report documents a series of attacks against members of the Santal indigenous community in Gaibandha District by police and state-owned company workers in connection with Santal ancestral land claims that came to a head on 6 November 2016. Three Santal were killed, 15 wounded, and hundreds were left homeless as a result of the 6 November violence. Perpetrators have been meted out token punishments that resulted in a number of police officers involved in the incident being transferred or suspended. No one has been subject to criminal charges.

"The Santal have been getting the short end of the stick for too long. The November 2016 deadly attack shows that authorities can commit serious human rights violations, which are met with empty gestures of justice. Bangladesh must respect, protect, and fulfil rights of indigenous communities, including their economic, social, and cultural rights”

Dimitris Christopoulos, FIDH President

The 6 November incident is not an isolated event. Attacks on indigenous people in Bangladesh are frequent and in many cases involve the active participation, complicity, or acquiescence of law enforcement agencies.

In early June, Bengali settlers carried out severe violence against members of the Jumma indigenous community in the Chittagong Hill Tracts as law enforcement agencies stood and watched. As a result, 300 homes were burned, an elderly woman was killed, and hundreds fled into the jungle. The Bangladeshi law enforcement agencies who authorized the attack and used excessive force against the indigenous minority in its aftermath have not been held to account.

"The government of Bangladesh must take urgent steps to put an end to impunity in the country. As long as law enforcement officials are not held accountable for enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, or violent attacks on indigenous minorities, nobody is safe”

Adilur Rahman Khan, Odhikar Secretary

FIDH, Odhikar, and AHRC call on the government of Bangladesh to investigate and prosecute all parties involved in the 6 November attack and to ensure appropriate redress for the Santal indigenous people. The three organizations also urge the Bangladeshi authorities to respect human rights and international standards on the use of force in the policing of public demonstrations, including the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.

Press contacts:
FIDH: Mr. Andrea Giorgetta (English) - Tel: +66886117722 (Bangkok)

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