A Call of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact, Asian Indigenous Women Network, Indigenous Peoples Organisations, Advocates and the International Community to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to Provide Justice on the Rape of Two Indigenous Marma Women and Assault on the Queen of the Chakma Circle, Chittagong Hill Tracks
The systematic approach of the security forces to cover up the rape and sexual assault, allegedly by the elements of Farua Army Camp of Digholchari Zone of 13 Bengal, on two Marma sisters (aged 19 and 14) and the inaction on the physical assault on the Queen of the Chakma Circle, Rani Yan Yan, are highly condemnable and unacceptable.
Human rights activists filed a writ petition to the High Court Division on 8 February to release the sisters from tight security surveillance in Rangamati Hospital. The security forces retaliated with a similar writ petition by forcing the girls’ parents to file a petition for custody in another High Court Division on 12 February. The parents have been under virtual detention by security forces since the sexual assault incident.
The parents’ writ petition was immediately issued a verdict on 13 February to release the two sisters under their custody despite the girls’ objections. The girls have wanted to be under the custody of Raja Devasish Roy and Rani Yan Yan of the Chakma Circle for fear of lack of protection and security when they are under parents’ custody and back in their village.
The second petition should have been considered illegitimate as, in practice, a court of the same level should not issue a verdict on a second petition while the first petition was awaiting hearing and the judges had instructed the government to continue to let the sisters stay on in the hospital until further orders were issued. In this case, an alleged deception or pressure for the verdict of the second petition to be released cannot be disregarded as part of the security forces’ measures to cover up the rape case.
Furthermore, on 15 February, Queen of the Chakma Circle, Rani Yan Yan, and another volunteer were beaten up when they intervened on behalf of the sisters and asked the security personnel to not take the sisters away by force.
The girls had themselves admitted to Rangamati Hospital on 23 January, a day after the security forces barged into their homes and sexually assaulted them. After their forcible removal from hospital they have been kept in the home of a former local government official in Rangamati town, and against their wishes, from where they are at risk of removal to other places with no security for them.
Incidents of rape and sexual assault such as that of the young Marma women are not uncommon, nor isolated cases, in Bangladesh. From 2014 to June 2017, there have been 297 reported cases of violence against indigenous women and girls none of these cases have been properly prosecuted, nor the perpetrators punished.
At this point, the ultimate priority is the sisters’ safety and security, and that of their family and human rights defenders, and eventually, justice, and the ending of impunity of security forces of Bangladesh, particularly with regard to sexual and other violence against women.
We, the undersigned, organisations and individuals, call on the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to:
- Bring justice to the rape of the two Marma sisters and call for their release from the security forces and adhere to the girls’ demand of transfer of custody under Raja Devasish Roy and Rani Yan Yan.
- Call for an impartial, independent and adequately mandated commission of inquiry to identify the perpetrators. The National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh has conducted investigation and will be submitting a report to the government. However, there is a concern that the NHRCT’s investigations, findings and recommendations, and the modalities of the implementation are no in accordance with international human rights standards.
- Ensure the security, the physical and psychological integrity of the sisters, and the safety and security of the human rights defenders, including Rani Yan Yan and the volunteers, their immediate families and communities. The pull-out of military camps and personnel from the CHT, as provided in the CHT Accord of 1997, will be a significant first step in this regard.
- Condemn the impunity of the security forces in Bangladesh on violations against women and sisters.
We seek for support to the Indigenous Communities and the International Community to:
- Sustain the call of immediate release of the Marma sisters and transfer of custody to the Raja family
- Continue the pressure to the government of Bangladesh to bring justice to the Marma sisters and the human rights defenders
- Persist in call on the government of Bangladesh to end the impunity of security forces in Bangladesh
Click here to download full signed statement.