GENEVA (16 September 2019) – UN human rights experts* have expressed serious concerns about tight new restrictions and an increased military presence at Rohingya refugee camps following a massive “Genocide Day” protest last month.
An estimated 200,000 refugees gathered for the so-called “Genocide Day” rally in Cox’s Bazar to mark the second anniversary of their exodus from Myanmar. They called for Myanmar citizenship rights and other guarantees before they agree to return.
Since the demonstration at Cox’s Bazar on 25 August, a number of the protest organisers have been questioned and subjected to intimidation, the experts said. A curfew is now being strictly enforced on those in the camps, and mobile phones have been banned and confiscated.
A number of NGOs have also been banned or suspended, allegedly for helping to organise the protest and attempting to persuade refugees not to return to Myanmar.
“We are alarmed by the sudden crackdown of the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, and are seriously concerned, not only that these restrictions have been applied in a discriminatory manner against members of the Rohingya minority, who are refugees in Bangladesh, but also that curfews and communications shutdowns could facilitate further serious human rights abuses against them,” the experts said.
Tensions flared between local communities and refugees following a failed refugee repatriation attempt and the murder of a young Bangladeshi man on 22 August. Bangladeshi police subsequently killed four Rohingya men and arrested at least one other in response to the killing.
“The search for justice for the young Bangladeshi man killed on 22 August is of the utmost importance, but it is equally necessary to ensure that the presumption of innocence is upheld and that reactionary, summary and ad hoc justice is not doled out solely to placate the legitimate concerns of the host community,” the experts said.
“We urge the Bangladeshi Government to carry out an independent, impartial and effective investigation into all deaths that have occurred with regards to this case.”
The experts have expressed their concerns to the Bangladeshi Government over the incidents.
(*) The UN experts: Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to peaceful assembly and of association; Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Mr. Felipe González Morales, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; Ms Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Mr. Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on minority issues; Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression