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January 2023

Episode: KPN 24-01-2023

Kaladan Radio January 24, 2023 525 4

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Rampant Police Abuse of Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh-part 03

Several refugees said that ABPn officers beat, slapped, kicked, or otherwise assaulted them, either in detention or at checkpoints. Two were arrested when the police arrived at their homes looking for family members who were not there. Officers arrested Kamal Ahmod, 18, a teacher, on November 2 when they were looking for his father, whom they accused of being an ARSA member.

Kamal Ahmod was sent to jail when his family was unable to pay the 100,000 taka ($1,000) bribe, and later sentenced to one month in prison. “We still don’t know why my brother was sentenced to prison,” his sister said. “My mother went to prison to meet with him yesterday and saw his face was swollen from police beatings. My brother said he was tortured mercilessly.”

Mohammad Alam, 36, an activist who had assembled a list of 149 refugees allegedly abused by APBn officers, was arrested in December 2021 after police found out about the list. “I was put in a single room that looks like an APBn torture cell with equipment like sticks, rods, and electric shock materials,” he said. “They kicked me with their boots every time someone came to interrogate me.” He was released on bail in February 2022.

In some cases, refugees paid bribes that were not honored. APBn arrested a 35-year-old Rohingya man in October 2021. Though his family paid a series of bribes for his release, he remains in jail. His brother, Abul Basher, 23, was arrested on June 27, 2022, and refused to pay the 100,000 taka ($1,000) that APBn officers demanded given his brother’s experience. He paid 30,000 taka ($300) for a lesser charge, which was not upheld, and spent 70 days in jail before securing bail.

Abul Basher said the harassment and extortion has not stopped. “APBn officers keep coming to me and my family asking for bribes,” he said. “They think we are some sort of money machine. How could we pay so much money? There is no way to earn cash. There is no work. We already lost all of our gold to get my bail. We are helpless.”

Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh lack recognized legal status, which puts them on a precarious footing under domestic law and makes them vulnerable to rights violations. The Bangladesh government has a responsibility under international human rights law to ensure that the rights of everyone in its jurisdiction, including refugees, are protected, and to investigate allegations of abuses by government security forces and hold those responsible to account. Restrictions on rights cannot be imposed on a discriminatory basis, including by country of origin.

The authorities should consult refugees and humanitarian groups to improve training and monitoring of APBn units operating in the camps, Human Rights Watch said. Each camp should task and train non-APBn personnel to receive complaints against police officers filed by refugees.

The 2022 Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya humanitarian crisis received less than half of the US$881 million needed for the year. Donors, including the US, United Kingdom, European Union, and Australia, should increase funding to meet the massive protection needs of the Rohingya refugee population.

“The US, UK, and other donors should support projects to promote Rohingya refugees’ safety and protection, while pressing the Bangladesh authorities to end police abuses in the camps,” Bauchner said. “Bangladesh should do what Myanmar never has – hold those responsible for abuses against Rohingya to account.”

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