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1.The indigenous civilian population in the Chittagong Hill Tracts is in danger after kidnapping of foreign engineers

2.Report of sexual harassment in Chittagong Hill Tracts

3.Human rights situation in Chittagong hill tracts ( Bangla, PDF )

4.Whose Human Rights Are We Defending?

5.How do we treat our minorities? Time for some honest answers

6.Human rights situation of Bangladesh minorities in Europe

7.Bangladesh tribes protest against wall, and Bangladesh 'tribals' seek support
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The indigenous civilian population in the Chittagong Hill Tracts is in danger after kidnapping of foreign engineers, - press release
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After the kidnapping of two Danish and one British engineer, the Bangladesh Government has deployed additional troops in an already heavily militarised region in order to search for the abducted engineers. IWGIA - the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - strongly condemns the kidnapping, but is also fearful that the intensified military presence might endanger both the hostages and the indigenous civilian population. The already rather fragile peace process in the southeastern region of Bangladesh - the Chittagong Hill Tracts - was initiated in 1997 with the signing of a peace accord between the Bangladesh Government and the local indigenous peoples - the Jumma. The peace accord is now in imminent danger of collapsing altogether.

The deployment of troops is one the most critical issues in the fragile peace process, which since it was initiated almost four years ago has shown several signs of weakness - and as a matter of fact has never been fully implemented by the Bangladesh government.

Neither has the security situation for the indigenous peoples been stabilised in compliance with the intentions of the peace accord. Constant breaches of fundamental human rights have occurred, and despite the peace accord murder, violence and disappearances are common. Since 1997 no less than 70 Jummas have been killed and more than 100 activists been arrested. The cause of the instability in the Chittagong Hill Tracts - including that of the last four years - lies with the Bangladesh Government's failure to uphold essential parts of the peace accord. For instance, the withdrawal of the troops that have been stationed in the region for years has never been concluded. The Bengali settlers allowed into the area by the Government have not been removed; nor has the Jumma population had their original territory restored to them.
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IWGIA now fears that the indigenous civilian population may be in immediate danger of attacks from the military during the intensive search for the abducted engineers.
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IWGIA has detailed knowledge of the situation in the region and has for a number of years been promoting a peaceful solution to the conflict in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Thus IWGIA has supported the Jumma in their efforts to secure basic human rights for their people, as well their struggle for autonomy and for recognition as indigenous peoples with rights to land, development and control of their own political affairs and destiny. The conflict dates all the way back to the 1970s, when the government of Bangladesh initiated an intensive settlement policy in the area aided by a powerful military presence.

It is essential that the critical situation in the area be handled with caution and with consideration for both hostages and the indigenous peoples in mind. For this reason IWGIA strongly supports the request of the Danish and the British Governments that the Bangladesh Government let the search for the hostages be conducted with peaceful means. The international community must help prevent that a military escalation in the region gains a permanent foothold and thereby sets the peace process back to the time before 1997, when it was put into effect. The worst-case scenario would be that the military under the guise of the ongoing search might increase abuses against the local Jumma population, as it happened at the beginning of the 1980s.
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IWGIA calls on the international community to stay focused on the Chittagong Hill Tracts - even after a hopefully peaceful solution of the present kidnapping crisis. After the freeing of the hostages it will be of the utmost importance to the indigenous population that the international community continues promoting the peace process.
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At present the lives of the hostages are the central consideration of governments and people. That is how it must be. Yet so ought the lives of a whole indigenous civilian population be. None of them have made the choice to be what they now are: pieces in an internal political game.
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In several books and reports IWGIA has documented the situation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The latest publications are: Land Rights of the Indigenous Peoples of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh By Rajkumari Chandra Roy, IWGIA 2000. "Life is not ours." Land and Human Rights in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh, Update Report 4. (the first Report was published in 1991).
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By The Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission, IWGIA 2000.
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For further information please contact: IWGIA
Classensgade 11 E
DK-Copenhagen Denmark
Phone: +45 35 05 00
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Personal contacts:
Lola GarcĂ­a-Alix
Human Rights Coordinator
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Anette Molbech
Public Relations Officer
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