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BANGLADESH: 11 year old Indigenous girl raped by police in Chittagong Hill Tracts

September 10, 2012

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-167-2012

10 September 2012
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BANGLADESH: 11 year old Indigenous girl raped by police in Chittagong Hill Tracts

ISSUES: Rape; violence against women; indigenous people's rights; torture; right to redress; impunity; rule of law
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information regarding an incident of rape. An 11-year-old girl has been raped by a policeman in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The minor girl has suffered serious physical, psychological, and social trauma due to the sexual assault for which the local police initially refused to register a complaint. Instead of registering the complaint the Atal Tila Police Camp In-charge offered BDT 1,000 (USD $ 12) to the girl's mother for settling the matter. Due to tremendous public pressure, a complaint was recorded with the Dighinala police station. The police authorities have not taken any action against the alleged perpetrator, other than withdrawing the cop from his place of duty, which is an 'eye-wash', to protect the policeman, rather than ensure justice.

CASE NARRATIVE:

Ruma (name changed), an 11-year-old girl from an indigenous community named Ruma was raped by a police constable on August 21st, 2012. The crime was committed in the afternoon, at around 2:30 pm, when Ruma was grazing family cattle in the Atal Tila Noymile area, which falls under the jurisdiction of Dighinala police station in Khagrachhari District of Bangladesh. The rapist policeman has been identified as Md. Russle Rana, attached to the Atal Tila police camp.

According to information with AHRC, on the afternoon of August 21st, Miss Ruma, along with her 8 year old sister, left Tapan Karbari Para Village that falls under the Merung Union Parishad in order to graze cows near the Ataltila police camp at Noymile area. Ruma went to collect greens and herbs from a place near the Atal Tila police camp while her younger sister was grazing the cattle few hundred meters away. Police Constable Md. Russle Rana saw Ruma alone in the area and forcefully took her behind a bush adjacent to the police camp, where he raped her. The policeman struck Ruma on the right hand and right leg with a stick before raping her.

Ruma was left lying in the bush for a while. She later returned home, still bleeding from the rape. Ruma's mother Ms. Nitya Bala Tripura heard the story from her daughter and went to the Atal Tila police camp. She insisted that the on-duty police officer Sub Inspector Mr. Md. Shah Alam register a complaint regarding the rape of her daughter by police constable Md. Russle Rana. Instead of registering Nitya's complaint, the police officer offered her BDT 1,000.00 (USD $ 12) to settle the matter.

Having been refused by the police, Ms. Nitya Bala Tripura contacted the local village head Mr. Tapan Tripura Karbari of the Noymile village. The Tripura Students' Forum, an association of students of the Tripura indigenous community, came to know about the crime. At this stage, the indigenous villagers gathered at the police camp and demanded arrest of the rapist policeman. Due to tremendous pressure from the local people, the police authorities declared that they had withdrawn the alleged rapist Md. Rasel Rana from the police camp and sent him to the police barrack of the district. The local people continued demanding arrest of the policeman, which has not yet been done.

The local pressure helped Nitya Bala Tripura file a rape case (No. 3, date August 21st, 2012) under Section 9(1) of Women and Child Repression (Prevention) Act 2000 on the same night with the Dighinala police station. Ruma was taken to the Dighinala Hospital on the same night for medical examination. Later, the doctors transferred her to the Khagrachhari Sadar Hospital, where the doctors confirmed evidence of rape. Since then, Ruma has received medical treatment at the hospital to heal her injuries.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

The term 'rape' or its synonym, is rarely found in the dialects of the indigenous communities living in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, as according to them the incidents of rape are almost zero in their communities. If a girl is raped, like in all other communities, anywhere in the country, it brings dishonor and social stigmatization to the victim, and her family.

The family of a victim of rape faces difficulty in arranging marriage of their daughter if the case of rape of their daughter is made public. This social problem, which follows an incident of rape, regardless of the identity of the victim – whether she is from indigenous or other mainstream communities – is not expectedly understood by ordinary criminals. But, when cops commit a heinous crime like rape, it provokes a serious question about their professional training and monitoring system.

The policeman, who raped the girl, deserves to be prosecution under the law. At the same time, the police officer who offered money to the mother of the victim of rape deserves prosecution as well for his attempt at covering up the crime committed by his colleague. The attempt to bribe the mother of the rape victim further reflects the mindset of the police that fails to match that of a professional police force. This attitude of police officers forces the people to protest against the authorities, as it happened in this case. It means that the system does not function to uphold the rule of law in Bangladesh. Instead, the people, who strive for the rule of law, have to fight with extra-energy and efforts to make something happen in the name of the 'rule of law' for which they fail many times and succeed rarely in the country.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write to the authorities of Bangladesh urging them to ensure a credible investigation by competent judicial officers so that the police are prevented from covering up their crimes, as has become their habit. The alleged perpetrators, including the rapist and the police officer, who attempted to cover up the rape case, must be punished through a fair and speedy trial. The victim must be afforded adequate compensation from the perpetrators and the authorities for the loss that she and her family have suffered and will suffer.

The AHRC has written a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteurs, on Violence against Women, on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples, on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and to the Chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, calling for their interventions into this matter.

To support this appeal, please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ___________,

BANGLADESH: Indigenous girl raped by police in Chittagong Hill Tracts

Name of victim: Miss Ruma (not original name), aged 11 years, living in Tapan Karbari Para village of Noymile area under Merung Union Parishad
Names of alleged perpetrators:
1. Mr. Russel Rana, police constable
2. Mr. Md. Shah Alam, Camp-In-Charge
Both are attached to the Otol Tila Police Camp under the jurisdiction of Dighinala police station in Khagrachhari district
Date and Time of incident: 21 August 2012 at around 2:30pm
Place of incident: Behind a bush on a hill near to the Otol Tila Police Camp under the jurisdiction of Dighinala police station in Khagrachhari district

I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding the rape of an 11-year-old girl of an indigenous community in the Chittagong Hill Tracts that has been committed by a policeman of the Atal Tila Police Camp under the jurisdiction of Dighinala police station in Khagrachhari Hill District on 21st August, 2012. I am appalled to know that a police officer of the same camp attempted to cover up the crime of his colleague by offering money to the mother of the victim when the victim's mother insisted the officer register her complaint. I demand immediate, credible, investigation and prosecution of both police officers for the crimes they have committed.

According to the information, I have received from the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), at around 2.30 pm Miss Ruma, along with her 8-year old sister, of Tapan Karbari Para village of Noymile area under Merung Union Parishad went out for grazing cows near Ataltila police camp at Noymile area. Ruma went to collect vegetables and herbs from a place near Atal Tila police camp while her younger sister was grazing the cattle few hundred meters away. Police Constable Md. Russle Rana saw Ruma alone in the area and forcefully took her behind a bush adjacent to the police camp where he raped her. The policeman struck Ruma on the right hand and right leg with a stick before raping her.

Ruma was left in the bush for a while. She later returned home, still bleeding from her female organ. Ruma's mother Ms. Nitya Bala Tripura heard the story from her daughter and went to the Atal Tila police camp. She insisted that the on-duty police officer Sub Inspector Md. Shah Alam register a complaint regarding the rape of her daughter by police constable Md. Russle Rana. Instead of registering Nitya's complaint, the police officer offered her BDT 1,000.00 (USD $ 12) to settle the matter.

Having been refused by the police, Nitya Bala Tripura contacted the local village head Mr. Tapan Tripura Karbari of the Noymile village. The Tripura Students' Forum, an association of students of the Tripura indigenous community, came to know about the crime. The indigenous villagers gathered at the police camp and demanded arrest of the rapist policeman. Following tremendous pressure from the local people, the police authorities declared that they had withdrawn the alleged rapist Md. Rasel Rana from the police camp and brought him to the police barrack of the district. The local people continued demanding arrest of the policeman, which has not been done.

Ms. Nitya Bala Tripura has filed a rape case (no. 3, date 21 August 2012) under Section 9(1) of Women and Child Repression (Prevention) Act 2000 with the Dighinala police station. Ruma was taken to the Dighinala Hospital for medical examination. Later, she was transferred to the Khagrachhari Sadar Hospital, where doctors found evidence regarding the allegation of rape. Since then, Ruma has received medical treatment at the hospital to heal her injuries.

I am aware that the term 'rape' or its synonym is rarely available in the dialects of the Indigenous communities living in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, as according to the locals, incidents of rape are almost zero in their communities. If a girl is raped, like all other communities anywhere in the country, it brings dishonor and social stigmatization to the victim, and her family. The family of a victim of rape faces difficulty in arranging marriage of their daughter if the case of rape of their daughter is made public.

I may agree that the social problems that follow an incident of rape, regardless of the identity of the victim – whether she is from indigenous or other mainstream communities – is not understood or considered by ordinary criminals. But, when policemen commit heinous crimes like rape, it provokes serious questions about their professional training and monitoring systems.

The policeman, who raped the girl, surely deserves to be subjected to investigation and prosecution. At the same time, the police officer who offered money to the mother of the victim of rape deserves prosecution as well for his attempt to cover up the crime committed by his colleague. It reflects the mindset of the police, which matches not that of a professional police force. This attitude of the police officers force the people to protest against the authorities as it happened in this case. It means that the system does not function to uphold the law. Instead, the people, who strive for the rule of law, have to fight with extra-efforts to make something happen in the name of the 'rule of law', for which they fail many times and succeed rarely in the country.

I urge the authorities of Bangladesh to ensure a credible investigation by competent judicial officers so that the police are prevented from their habit of covering up their own crimes. The alleged perpetrators, including the rapist and the police officer who attempted to cover up the rape case, must be punished through a fair and speedy trial. The victim must be afforded adequate compensation from the perpetrators and the authorities for the loss she and her family have suffered.

Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mrs. Sheikh Hasina
Prime Minister
Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh
Office of the Prime Minister
Tejgaon, Dhaka
BANGLADESH
Fax: +880 2 811 3244 / 3243 / 1015 / 1490
Tel: +880 2 882 816 079 / 988 8677
E-mail: pm@pmo.gov.bd or ps1topm@pmo.gov.bd or psecy@pmo.gov.bd

2. Mr. Md. Muzammel Hossain
Chief Justice
Supreme Court of Bangladesh
Supreme Court Building
Ramna, Dhaka-1000
BANGLADESH
Fax: +880 2 956 5058 /+880 2 7161344
Tel: +880 2 956 2792
E-mail: chief@bdcom.com or supremec@bdcom.com

3. Barrister Shafique Ahmed
Minister
Ministry of Law, Justice & Parliamentary Affairs
Bangladesh Secretariat
Dhaka-1000
BANGLADESH
Tel: +880 2 7160627 (O)
Fax: +880 2 7168557 (O)
Email: info@minlaw.gov.bd

4. Ms. Sahara Khatun MP
Minister
Ministry of Home Affairs
Bangladesh Secretariat
Dhaka-1000
BANGLADESH
Tel: +880 2 7169069 (O)
Fax: +880 2 7160405, 880 2 7164788 (O)
E-mail: minister@mha.gov.bd

5. Mr. Mahbubey Alam
Attorney General of Bangladesh
Office of the Attorney General
Supreme Court Annex Building
Ramna, Dhaka-1000
BANGLADESH
Fax: +880 2 956 1568
Tel: +880 2 956 2868

6. Prof. Mizanur Rahman
Chairman
National Human Rights Commission
10th Floor, Gulfeshan Plaza
8, Journalist Selina Parvin Road
Mogbazar, Dhaka
BANGLADESH
Tel: +88 02 8331492
Fax: +88 02 8333219
E-mail: nhrc.bd@gmail.com

7. Mr. Hassan Mahmud Khandker
Inspector General of Police (IGP)
Bangladesh Police
Police Headquarters'
Fulbaria, Dhaka-1000
BANGLADESH
Fax: +880 2 956 3362 / 956 3363
Tel: +880 2 956 2054 / +880 2 717 6451 / +880 2 717 6677
E-mail: ig@police.gov.bd

8. Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG)
Chittagong Range
Office of the DIG of Chittagong Range
Zakir Hossain Road
Khulshi, Chittagong
BANGLADESH
Tel: +88-031-650120, 655466 (O)
Fax: +88-031-652111 (O)
E-mail: digchittagong@police.gov.bd


Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)

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Extended Introduction: Urgent Appeals, theory and practice

A need for dialogue

Many people across Asia are frustrated by the widespread lack of respect for human rights in their countries.  Some may be unhappy about the limitations on the freedom of expression or restrictions on privacy, while some are affected by police brutality and military killings.  Many others are frustrated with the absence of rights on labour issues, the environment, gender and the like. 

Yet the expression of this frustration tends to stay firmly in the private sphere.  People complain among friends and family and within their social circles, but often on a low profile basis. This kind of public discourse is not usually an effective measure of the situation in a country because it is so hard to monitor. 

Though the media may cover the issues in a broad manner they rarely broadcast the private fears and anxieties of the average person.  And along with censorship – a common blight in Asia – there is also often a conscious attempt in the media to reflect a positive or at least sober mood at home, where expressions of domestic malcontent are discouraged as unfashionably unpatriotic. Talking about issues like torture is rarely encouraged in the public realm.

There may also be unwritten, possibly unconscious social taboos that stop the public reflection of private grievances.  Where authoritarian control is tight, sophisticated strategies are put into play by equally sophisticated media practices to keep complaints out of the public space, sometimes very subtly.  In other places an inner consensus is influenced by the privileged section of a society, which can control social expression of those less fortunate.  Moral and ethical qualms can also be an obstacle.

In this way, causes for complaint go unaddressed, un-discussed and unresolved and oppression in its many forms, self perpetuates.  For any action to arise out of private frustration, people need ways to get these issues into the public sphere.

Changing society

In the past bridging this gap was a formidable task; it relied on channels of public expression that required money and were therefore controlled by investors.  Printing presses were expensive, which blocked the gate to expression to anyone without money.  Except in times of revolution the media in Asia has tended to serve the well-off and sideline or misrepresent the poor.

Still, thanks to the IT revolution it is now possible to communicate with large audiences at little cost.  In this situation there is a real avenue for taking issues from private to public, regardless of the class or caste of the individual.

Practical action

The AHRC Urgent Appeals system was created to give a voice to those affected by human rights violations, and by doing so, to create a network of support and open avenues for action.  If X’s freedom of expression is denied, if Y is tortured by someone in power or if Z finds his or her labour rights abused, the incident can be swiftly and effectively broadcast and dealt with. The resulting solidarity can lead to action, resolution and change. And as more people understand their rights and follow suit, as the human rights consciousness grows, change happens faster. The Internet has become one of the human rights community’s most powerful tools.   

At the core of the Urgent Appeals Program is the recording of human rights violations at a grass roots level with objectivity, sympathy and competence. Our information is firstly gathered on the ground, close to the victim of the violation, and is then broadcast by a team of advocates, who can apply decades of experience in the field and a working knowledge of the international human rights arena. The flow of information – due to domestic restrictions – often goes from the source and out to the international community via our program, which then builds a pressure for action that steadily makes its way back to the source through his or her own government.   However these cases in bulk create a narrative – and this is most important aspect of our program. As noted by Sri Lankan human rights lawyer and director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, Basil Fernando:

"The urgent appeal introduces narrative as the driving force for social change. This idea was well expressed in the film Amistad, regarding the issue of slavery. The old man in the film, former president and lawyer, states that to resolve this historical problem it is very essential to know the narrative of the people. It was on this basis that a court case is conducted later. The AHRC establishes the narrative of human rights violations through the urgent appeals. If the narrative is right, the organisation will be doing all right."

Patterns start to emerge as violations are documented across the continent, allowing us to take a more authoritative, systemic response, and to pinpoint the systems within each country that are breaking down. This way we are able to discover and explain why and how violations take place, and how they can most effectively be addressed. On this path, larger audiences have opened up to us and become involved: international NGOs and think tanks, national human rights commissions and United Nations bodies.  The program and its coordinators have become a well-used tool for the international media and for human rights education programs. All this helps pave the way for radical reforms to improve, protect and to promote human rights in the region.