Justice for raped Marma sisters, Rani Yan Yan and Indigenous women human rights defenders
Justice for raped Marma sisters, Rani Yan Yan and Indigenous women human rights defenders
We the undersigned individuals and organisations are deeply concerned about the recent incident of sexual violence against two indigenous Marma sisters on 22/1/18  and assaults on Rani Yan Yan (the Chakma Queen) and Women Human Rights Defenders on 15/2/18  in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh perpetrated by Bangladesh military and security forces.
Human rights groups report there has been a concerted and coordinated effort to cover up the rape and sexual assault  and also attempts to impose a mainstream media blackout .
Incidents of rape and sexual assault are common in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, with a young Tripura girl reportedly raped on International Womens’ Day . From 2014 to June 2017, there have been 297 reported cases  of violence against indigenous women and girls none of these cases have been properly prosecuted, nor the perpetrators punished. Rape and sexual violence targeting indigenous women and girls are part of a systematic and brutal strategy to terrorise the indigenous communities and displace them from their lands. 
On 22 January 2018 a patrol party from Farua Army Camp carried out house to house searches in Orasori village, Bilaichari district in Rangamati, Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh They entered the house of an indigenous Marma family. Two men raped the 18-year-old sister and seriously sexually assaulted the younger 14-year-old sister. Their seven-year-old brother was present in the room.
The following day the sisters were taken to hospital for treatment. Whilst at the hospital they were placed under tight surveillance, unlawfully detained  and subjected to degrading treatment. Rani Yan-Yan and other women’s human rights defenders attended the sisters for 20 consecutive days, to provide support and to bear witness to their treatment. One of the reasons Rani Yan Yan visited the sisters, is because she is also from the Marma indigenous group and can communicate with the sisters in their mother tongue. The sisters said they were scared to return to their village, for fear of retaliation for speaking out. A writ was filed to release the sisters into the protective custody of Raja Devasish Roy and Rani Yan Yan. 
Attack on Rani Yan Yan and Women Human Rights Defender
The parents of the two girls, having allegedly been placed under extreme pressure from the Bangladeshi security forces, filed a counter-writ for their daughters’ release, which was upheld on the 13/2/18. This led to a raid on the hospital by security forces and plain-clothes personnel when the sisters were forcibly taken from the hospital (15/3/18). Rani Yan-Yan and a woman human rights defender were assaulted, kicked and beaten trying to protect the sisters who were refusing to leave. A physical assault of such magnitude on Rani Yan Yan is tantamount to an attack on all the indigenous people of the Chakma Circle. The Chakma Raj is held in high esteem and is considered to be the custodians of centuries-old traditions and way of life.
Accountability and Scrutiny
There is an intense lack of scrutiny of the situation facing Indigenous peoples in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. It is notable that Bangladesh is the largest contributing country to the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (UN DPKO). It is abhorrent to think of perpetrators of such crimes serving as UN Peacekeepers. We welcome the statement made by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (4/3/16) pledging reforms to improve accountability for abuse by peacekeepers including measures for stricter vetting of new UN personnel and quicker investigations. 
International Scrutiny and Safeguarding
It is commendable the international community is acting to combat the sexual exploitation and abuse of vulnerable women and children in communities by aid workers from International NGOs such as Oxfam and Save the Children. However, the same level of scrutiny and accountability is required for all recipients of aid, including Bangladesh, especially when there are credible reports of vulnerable women and children and being sexually abused by those in power and having little or no means of holding those in power to account for their crimes.
We call on Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the Government of Bangladesh to:
- End impunity for security forces for sexual and physical violence against indigenous women in the CHT
- Bring all perpetrators of sexual violence to justice in the CHT and plains of Bangladesh in accordance to international standards;
- Ensure access to justice for the Marma sisters in accordance to international standards, as well as ensuring their physical and psychological wellbeing
- Carry out an independent, impartial investigation into the attack on Rani Yan Yan and the Women Human Rights Defender and bring the perpetrators to justice
- Urgently ensure the security of Rani Yan Yan and the Chakma royal family and other human rights defenders in the Chittagong Hill Tracts
- Implement the 1997 CHT Peace Accords in full before its 21st anniversary in December 2018. 
- Demilitarise the CHT and removal of army camps in accordance to the 1997 CHT Accord
We further request assurance from the Government of Bangladesh to take all precautions to ensure that there is proper scrutiny of all personnel, including military from Bangladesh prior to serving in the United Nations to certify ‘they have not committed or are alleged to have committed criminal offences and/or violations of international law..’
We would like to make the following recommendations to the United Nations and the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations to improve the accountability of both civilian and military personnel serving the UN. We request the UN to:
- Exercise due diligence and ensure proper screening prior to deployment of personnel from Bangladesh that are alleged to be involved in criminal offences and violations of international human rights law. (In accordance with UN Human Rights Screening Policy 2012) 
- Allow Bangladeshi and Indigenous women’s human rights groups, women human rights defenders from the to submit details of named personnel involved in these disturbing events, which are in clear violation of international human rights law, as well as criminal offences.
- The UN establish a database of personnel unsuitable for UN service. This should be open to contributions from indigenous women and human rights groups with experience and evidence of human rights abuses
- Consider how information on allegations of human rights abusers can be gathered from countries with poor rule of law and lack of access to justice
We urge the Special Rapporteurs on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Women, Torture, Child Protection, on Violence against Children and for Children and Armed Conflict, Human Rights Defenders and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues to urgently investigate the recent events with a view to making recommendations to provide protection and access to justice for the Marma sisters, Rani Yan Yan and women human rights defenders, reporting back to the United Nations at CEDAW and via the appropriate mechanisms.
We call on the international community, International financial institutions and donor countries such as the UK, Australia, USA, France and Canada, Japan (DfID, AusAID, USAid, CIDA, SIDA, NORAD, EU) to:
- Ensure proper investigation of de facto military rule and access to justice in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh, ensuring that issues relating to the treatment of the indigenous people are brought into the mainstream and to bring strong diplomatic pressure to bear.
- Encourage and support the Government of Bangladesh and Indigenous communities in the implementation of the 1997 CHT Peace Accords and de-militarisation of the CHT
We ask supporters to stand in solidarity with the Marma sisters, Rani Yan Yan and other human rights defenders as they fight for justice and to hold their abusers and the institutions they represent to account for their actions.
You can help by writing to your representative:
Further Reading and References:
 Rape of Marma sisters, In conversation with Rani Yan Yan; The Daily Star 2/2/18 http://www.thedailystar.net/star-weekend/human-rights/rape-marma-sisters-1528471
 Bangladesh: Assault on Chakma Rani Yan Yan: An Official statement from the Chakma Raj Office
 Rights Groups accuse Bangladesh army of covering up sex assault, Al Jazeera, 28/2/18
 CHT incident, digital media and analogue government, New Age Bangladesh, 21/2/18
 Protest at DU against rape of Tripura girl, Daily Star 9/3/18
 Bangladesh: Uphold the Rule of Law and End Impunity for Security Forces, Asian Indigenous Peoples Pact statement 3/3/18
 Indigenous women target of rape in land-related conflicts in Bangladesh, IWGIA, 8/3/18
 Rape of Marma girl: Questions aplenty, Daily Star, 1/2/18
 Settle rule on Marma sisters in 6 weeks: SC, Daily Star, 22/2/18
 UN: Stop Sexual abuse by Peacekeepers, Human Rights Watch, 4/3/16
 Suffering of Jumma tribes continue 20 years after peace accord
 Human Rights Screening of UN Personnel, UN Policy 11/12/12