Independent team denounces repression of Jumma tribes

February 15, 2008

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A group of prominent Bangladeshis have spoken of their ‘grave concern’ for the Jumma tribal peoples of the Chittagong Hill Tracts after a fact finding trip to the region.

The group, which includes Bangladeshi academics, writers, journalists, development workers, political leaders and activists, said that an increase in repression has caused ‘fresh fear’ among the Jummas. Arrests and torture of Jummas have escalated since emergency rule was declared in Bangladesh in January 2007.

The team found evidence of torture, political repression and religious persecution, and received numerous reports of intimidation and eviction of Jummas from their land by Bengali settlers, often with the assistance of the authorities.

The report calls on the government to stop settling Bengalis in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, and to meet the commitments it made in a peace accord with the Jummas in 1997. ‘They are also human beings, let them survive with their rights,’ it says.

The eleven Jumma tribes have experienced waves of murder, torture and other human rights abuses at the hands of the Bangladesh military ever since the country gained independence in 1971. The government has moved hundreds of thousands of Bengali settlers onto their land.

Survival’s director Stephen Corry welcomed the report, saying, ‘Survival is delighted that prominent Bangladeshis have had the courage to speak out and expose the tragic situation of the Jummas. It is time the Bangladesh government listened to its own people and allowed the Jummas to live in peace on their own land.’

For more information contact Miriam Ross on (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or email [email protected]