Reazul Haque, chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, has said that one of his long-term goals is to solve the land disputes that have plagued the indigenous groups.
He made the statement at a national seminar on the Rights of Indigenous Human Rights Defenders, organised by the Indigenous Peoples Development Service (IPDS). The seminar was held at the CBCB Centre in the capital.
The event was organised in order to increase awareness among the indigenous peoples, where National Coordinator of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Alexius Chicham gave a presentation informing the human rights defenders of their rights, duties and practices.
The United Nations declaration on Human Rights Defenders 1998, which outlines the protections and duties afforded to human rights defenders and organisations, took a central part of the discussions.
Rezaul claimed that the failure of the ILO’s Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention 1957, which was adopted by Bangladesh in 1972, was to blame for some of the problems being faced by the indigenous communities. “It was integrated, but never implemented, and that is why the indigenous peoples face violence in this country,” he said.
The NHRC chief also urged for decisive action against those responsible for attacks against minorities, as well as harsh punishment in order to discourage future atrocities.
The indigenous groups in the Chittagong Hill Tracts region have long been demanding land rights, but the CHT Land Commission formed in 1999 has failed to solve a single case. The government recently amended the law and issued a circular seeking complaints.
Dr Meghna Guhathakurta, a member of the NHRC, also spoke on the role and importance of the human rights defenders, emphasising on Chicham’s presentation.
President of IPDS Sanjeev Drong presided over the national seminar. More than 250 young indigenous human rights defenders were in attendance.