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January 2023

Episode: KPN 21-01-2023

Kaladan Radio January 21, 2023 472 4


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Rampant Police Abuse of Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh

Bangladesh’s Armed Police Battalion (APBn) is committing extortion, arbitrary arrests, and harassment of Rohingya refugees already facing violence from criminal gangs and armed groups, Human Rights Watch said today. Donor governments should press the Bangladesh authorities to investigate alleged abuses against Rohingya living in refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, ensure that victims have effective remedies, and develop measures to better protect refugees.

The Armed Police Battalion took over security in the Rohingya camps in July 2020. Refugees and humanitarian workers report that safety has deteriorated under the APBn’s oversight due to increased police abuses as well as criminal activity. Some refugees allege collusion between APBn officers and armed groups and gangs operating in the camps.

“Abuses by police in the Cox’s Bazar camps have left Rohingya refugees suffering at the hands of the very forces who are supposed to protect them,” said Shayna Bauchner, Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Bangladesh authorities should immediately investigate allegations of widespread extortion and wrongful detention by Armed Police Battalion officers and hold all those responsible to account.”

“Abuses by police in the Cox’s Bazar camps have left Rohingya refugees suffering at the hands of the very forces who are supposed to protect them. Bangladesh authorities should immediately investigate allegations of widespread extortion and wrongful detention by Armed Police Battalion officers and hold all those responsible to account. Interviewed more than 40 Rohingya refugees in October and November 2022 and reviewed police reports, documenting more than 16 cases of serious abuse by APBn officers. These included abuses against 10 refugees who were detained on apparently fabricated grounds for trafficking yaba, a methamphetamine drug, or for violence-related offenses.”

Shayna Bauchner, Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 40 Rohingya refugees in October and November 2022 and reviewed police reports, documenting more than 16 cases of serious abuse by APBn officers. These included abuses against 10 refugees who were detained on apparently fabricated grounds for trafficking yaba, a methamphetamine drug, or for violence-related offenses. Human Rights Watch and others have long documented the common practice by Bangladesh security forces of framing suspects with drugs or weapons.

Almost every case Human Rights Watch investigated involved extortion either directly by APBn officers or communicated through majhis, the camp community leaders. Police generally demanded 10,000-40,000 taka (US$100-400) to avoid arrest, and 50,000-100,000 taka ($500-1,000) for the release of a detained family member. Families often had to sell gold jewelry or borrow money for bribes or legal costs. Many worried about the harm to their reputation.

Several refugees were seemingly targeted for information they had shared online regarding APBn harassment of Rohingya. Sayed Hossein, 27, who works as a health volunteer with an international organization and as a citizen journalist, said that on July 25, 2022, at about 10 p.m., around 30 APBn officers arrived at his house, handcuffed him, and confiscated his laptop and flash drive. (Pseudonyms are used to protect the security of interviewees.) He said they told him he was being arrested for posting on social media about an APBn officer harassing innocent Rohingya. They took him to the police camp and demanded a bribe. When his family could not pay 50,000 taka ($500), the APBn officers forcibly photographed him with yaba tablets and sent him to the nearby Ukhiya police station.

“I asked them not to take any photos since it would impact my job and future,” Sayed Hossein said. “They said that because I’m Rohingya, I don’t have any future.” APBn posted the photos on their social media accounts. He was detained on drug trafficking charges and spent 41 days in jail before making bail. He said most of his fellow inmates were Rohingya.

Many of the Rohingya victims work for nongovernmental organizations or as teachers. Humanitarian organizations have raised concerns regarding the impact of APBn harassment on their staff and operations. Another health volunteer paid APBn officers 6,000 taka ($60) after they confiscated his work cellphone and downloaded photos and videos related to armed groups to frame him. “I still remember them smiling when they gave my mobile back,” he said. “In Myanmar, the security forces used to charge us money for anything, any time they wanted. Now in the camps, Bangladesh law enforcement is doing the same thing.”

To be continuous next part Two

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