Written on UN press statement; posted in bdnews24.com

The UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) has urged the United Nations to prevent military units violating human rights from participating international peacekeeping activities.

At the closing of its 10th session in New York on Friday, the forum also requested the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, which decides on the issue of deploying army from different countries to the missions, to evaluate records of the army before letting their countries take part in the peacekeeping operations.

It also asked the Bangladesh government to “establish an independent enquiry commission to look into the allegations of human rights violation by army against ‘indigenous’ people”.

The forum recognised that there was opportunity on constitutional amendments in Bangladesh and encouraged peaceful dialogue between the government and indigenous peoples aimed at implementing the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord, according to the official UN website.

It also suggested Bangladesh that it addresses the substantial concerns raised in the report and during the tenth session of the Permanent Forum, in accordance with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The resolution came upon recommendations of the study on CHT Peace Accord execution, placed in the session in New York by UN Special Rapporteur Lars-Anders Baer, also a former forum member.

Baer suggested that the UN peacekeeping operations body adopt a mechanism “to strictly monitor and screen the human rights records of national army personnel prior to allowing them to participate in peacekeeping operations under the auspices of the United Nations”.

In his speech, he also described how Bangladesh Army was abusing power in the region.

“The region is still heavily militarised and there are reports that the military is carrying out gross violations of indigenous human rights,” he said at the 12th and 13th meeting of the sessions, the website said.

The former UNPFII member said impunity prevailed in the area. “The violators should be brought to justice.”

The hill tracts in the south-eastern Bangladesh are home to 11 ‘indigenous’ groups.

The peace accord between the then Awami League government and Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samity (PCJSS) ended the decade-long bush war between the ‘indigenous’ people and the army.

The UNPFII in its resolution also asked the Bangladesh government to declare a timeline and modalities for implementing the 1997 Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord.

It also called for undertaking a “phased withdrawal of temporary military camps” from the region and otherwise, demilitarise the region in consistent with the safeguards of the accord.

It hopes the withdrawal would contribute to the ultimate objective of peace, economic and social development and improve the relationship between indigenous people and the government.

Of some 500 temporary army camps, 200 have so far been withdrawn by the governments in phases until 2007 while 34 in August and September last year. Six permanent cantonments are still there.

Baer, however, disagreed with the Bangladesh government on the number of military camps, terming it contradictory to other reports. PCJSS estimates that the number of military camps withdrawn till date is around 74.

This year’s session has a significant representation of the indigenous people of Bangladesh. Chakma Raja Devasish Roy, an expert member of the UNPFII for 2011-13, attended the 12-day session that began on May 16.

The high-level delegation from Bangladesh, led by state minister of CHT affairs Dipankar Talukdar, cancelled their trip to New York “at the last minute”.

Raja Devasish from the session urged the government for effective measures to execute the peace accord. He said: “Demilitarisation is crucial, as it has implications for the stability of the entire country and its journey to democracy”.