"Lack of full implementation of CHT accord is impacting indigenous women and girls gravely"

Non-implementation of Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Accord since it was signed 25 years ago has severely threatened the culture and identity of the region’s indigenous population, and violated their human rights, a UN expert said on Saturday. 

Marking the anniversary of the signing on 2 December 1997, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, Francisco Cali Tzay, issued a statement.

"The non-implementation of the accord signed between the Government and the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS - Indigenous Peoples political party) has left the Indigenous Peoples vulnerable, marginalised, and deprived of determining their own development, as they are entitled to in the accord."

"The provision in the accord to return illegally occupied land and setting up a land dispute resolution commission has not been fully implemented, temporary military camps have not been withdrawn, and the rehabilitation of indigenous refugees and internally displaced IPs in their respective lands have also not been provided,” said the statement.

“I have been continuously receiving news and information from different sources about the gross and systematic human rights violations against the Indigenous Peoples, including the PCJSS members who signed the accord, Indigenous human rights defenders and Indigenous women and girls,” it said.

“The repeated effort over the year to grab Indigenous Peoples’ land in the name of development, tourism, and eco-forest for national and international companies and other vested interests also disrespects the accord,” it added.

“I’m seriously concerned over the rise of violence against indigenous women and the culture of impunity that prevails. Lack of full implementation of the accord is impacting indigenous women and girls gravely. Violence against them is being used as a tool to evict indigenous people from their land,” it stated.

“Indigenous women and girls are rarely getting justice. Their freedom of movement is shrinking every day. Moreover, they are also facing violence, harassment, and oppression from their male counterpart as a result of non-implementation of the accord in the community,” it further added.

“Honesty, sincerity, dialogue, good faith and mutual trust are indispensable for implementing the CHT accord. I urge the Government of Bangladesh to respect its commitments made at the UN and at national level, and move the full implementation forward through full, meaningful and effective participation of the Indigenous Peoples.”