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Thursday, May 26, 2011

United Nations Rapporteur asks Bangladesh to implement 1997 CHT Accord

United Nations Rapporteur asks Bangladesh to implement 1997 CHT Accord

United Nations, New York, May 25th 2011

Mr. Iqbal Ahmed, First Secretary, Bangladesh Mission to UN responds to Report on 1997 CHT Accord, 25th May, 2011.

Bangladesh Government representatives strongly objected to the "Study on the status of implementation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord of 1997", presented at the United Nations by Special Rapporteur Mr. Lars Anders Baer, former member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. The UN selects several Special Rapporteurs every year to conduct research on specific topics-- in 2010, one of the many Studies mandated by the UN was one on Chittagong Hill Tracts.

The United Nations held a session dedicated to the Report on 1997 CHT Accord today in New York. The Bangladesh government was represented by First Secretary of Bangladesh Mission, Mr. Iqbal Ahmed. The high-level delegation from Bangladesh, led by State Minister of CHT Affairs Dipankar Talukdar, cancelled their trip to New York "at last minute" (New Age, May 25th, 2011).

During his fact-finding mission, Mr. Lars Anders Baer met with civil administration of CHT and members of the Cabinet, including Foreign Minister, CHT Minister, Law Minister and Land Minister, as well as the Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN. He also presented the draft report to the Bangladesh government, but did not receive any response.

However, in the response presented at the United Nations today, Mr. Ahmed objected strongly to the report, stating, "Bangladesh does not have any 'indigenous' population". He also said, "The Accord has nothing to do with 'indigenous issues' and therefore, the Government of Bangladesh reiterates its position that the Forum, which is mandated to deal with 'indigenous issues', does not have any locus standi [standing] in discussing the issues related to the CHT Peace Accord."

Mr. Ahmed specifically objected to Para 56 and 58(a) of the UN Special Rapporteur's report, describing it as "out of context". In the UN Special Rapporteur's Report, Para 56 recommends "Develop a mechanism to strictly monitor and screen the human rights records of national army personnel prior to allowing them to participate in peacekeeping operations under the auspices of the United Nations" and Para 58(a) states "Recommend that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations prevent human rights violators and alleged human rights violators within the security forces of Bangladesh from participating in international peacekeeping activities under the auspices of the United Nations."

In his concluding remarks, Mr. Ahmed of Bangladesh mission stated, "We urge upon the [UN] Forum to dedicate its valuable time to discuss issues related to millions of indigenous people all over the world and not waste time on issues politically concocted by some enthusiastic quarters with questionable motives."

After listening to the Bangladesh Mission's statement, government delegations from Denmark and Guatemala, international Indigenous People's representatives, and international human rights groups emphasized that Bangladesh had not done enough to implement the 1997 CHT Accord.

Raja Devasish Roy, Member, UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, representing the indigenous peoples of the Asia region, who is also the traditional Chief of the Chakma people of CHT, looked at the larger framework of international conflict resolution: "It is important to bear in mind the asymmetry in the status of the two parties to an accord: the state party and the non-state party. If the state reneges on its promises, what can the non-state party do but approach the United Nations? The Permanent Forum is mandated to deal with issues of indigenous peoples, irrespective of what term the governments use to refer to their indigenous peoples: ‘tribes’ or ‘ethnic minorities’ or otherwise."

Tarcila Rivera of Global Women's Caucus said, "The indigenous women in solidarity reaffirm that IP have the right to self-determination and full The control of natural resources like land, minerals, petrol are non-negotiable and we the indigenous peoples have the right to manage their own territories. I want to urgently call on the representatives of the Member States, Indigenous leaders, human rights activists, decisionmakers that between all of us, we construct a process of peace and understanding among all the different peoples of the world."

Niko Walkeapaa, on behalf of The Saami Council stated, "[We] believe that the 1997 Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord is a foundation legal document that can restore the rights of the Indigenous People of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, and congratulates the Government of Bangladesh for having signed this Accord. However, we are concerned that most of the important sections of the 1997 Accord remain unimplemented 14 years after the Accord was signed."

U Kyaw Zan delivered a joint statement on behalf of Chittagong Hill Tracts Citizen’s Committee (CHT-CC), Indigenous Peoples Development Facilitators Forum (IPDFF), and Land is Life: "We are growing increasingly skeptical of the government’s sincerity to implement the CHT Accord. The government implemented only those provisions that met their integrationist goals. The more substantive aspects of the Accord were left out. It is more than a decade now since the Peace Accord was signed. The anomalous delay in the implementation of the Accord has created a situation of mistrust and conflict, and continuation of militarization of CHT to the detriment of much sought after peace in the CHT."

Steen Hansen, on behalf of the Danish government, stated, "Failure to implement the Peace Accord could cause renewed instability in the region. Denmark would like to encourage the Government of Bangladesh to set up a roadmap with a timeframe to implement the remaining parts of the Accord."

Andrea Carmen of the International Indian Treaty Council focused on the issue of demilitarization, stating, "According to the CHT Accord, all of the approximately 500 temporary military camps, with exception of border guard camps and 6 cantonments, were to be withdrawn in phases. We are concerned to learn that only some camps have been withdrawn in 14 years and the military has expropriated 1000s of additional acres of land to expand or construct military camps and facilities throughout the CHT."

Lina Lushai, on behalf of Kapaeeng Foundation and Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum said, "The honorable first secretary of BD mission Mr. Ahmed has repeatedly said that we are not “Indigenous peoples”. He says we are “Tribals” and “Ethnic minority”. As an indigenous person from CHT, representing indigenous people, we reject any imposed identity. We are indigenous people, and we must be recognized as indigenous peoples by our government."

Mangal Kumar Chakma, Information and Publicity Secretary, PCJSS, the original signatory to the Accord, stated, " Lack of sincere political commitment to implement the CHT Accord on the part of the government in addition to continuing de facto military rule, and hostile bureaucracy both civil and military are the main elements hindering the implementation of CHT Accord. Until and unless withdrawal of all temporary camps and de facto military rule ‘Operation Uttoron’ from CHT region are made, restoration of peace and stability and implementation of CHT Accord will be difficult to achieve."

Wasfia Nazreen delivered a statement on behalf of Ain o Shalish Kendro (Ecosoc-accredited national NGO): "ASK strongly holds that full implementation of the 1997 CHT Accord is mandatory. At the same time, ASK recognizes that fundamentally, it is NOT the ultimate measure. Its main aim is to restore a just peace, de-militarize the region, provide for rehabilitation, and set the stage for CHT-specific institutions to pursue their self-determined development. But such development efforts can hardly start unless the basic problems are addressed. ASK believes that affirmative actions and special measures are necessary (not special rights) to ensure that the rights of Adibashis are guaranteed. Special attention is also necessary to accumulate and bring together all the scattered clauses of existing treaties and declaration that may benefit them."

Andrew Erueti delivered a joint statement by Amnesty International and IWGIA, in which he stated, "The study confirms the content of numerous reports on the situation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts as well as the statements made over the years by Indigenous people from the CHT to the Permanent Forum, namely, that progress in implementing the CHT Accord is painfully slow and that the slow progress is exacerbating the distressing human rights situation facing the indigenous peoples in the region."

Responses to the Bangladesh statement were also made by Daley Sambo and Saul Vicente, Members of the Permanent Forum, among others.

Issued by
International Jumma Organization
New York, USA
May 25th, 2011

For photos and other info: cht.rights@gmail.com


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