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Dhaka Tribune

Bangladesh urged to end pushbacks of Rohingya refugees, probe beatings

  • Interviews with Rohingya by Fortify Rights reveal BGB beatings and forced returns
  • Upholding international obligations to protect refugees is crucial, says Fortify Rights
Update : 26 Apr 2024, 12:49 PM

Fortify Rights issued a call on Friday urging the Bangladesh government to investigate and hold accountable officials involved in beatings and forced returns of Rohingya refugees fleeing conflict and genocide in Myanmar's Rakhine State. 

Recent research by Fortify Rights reveals that the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) has been responsible for the assault and pushback of over 300 Rohingya refugees to Myanmar in six separate incidents since February.

Between February and April, Fortify Rights conducted interviews with nine Rohingya individuals from Maungdaw who had escaped the ongoing conflict and persecution in Rakhine State only to be forcibly returned by the BGB. 

Additionally, Fortify Rights spoke with a Bangladesh naval officer stationed in Teknaf, near the Bangladesh-Myanmar border. Among the Rohingya interviewed, six reported being subjected to beatings by BGB officials.

One 28-year-old Rohingya man recounted his experience of fleeing the conflict in Leik Ya village, where he had witnessed his home being destroyed and three relatives killed, including his five-year-old nephew. 

He described how he, along with around 60 others, attempted to escape to Bangladesh but was intercepted by the BGB on March 6. 

Despite pleading to be allowed entry, they had been beaten and pushed back to Myanmar, he said.

Another 41-year-old Rohingya man described similar treatment when he and his family, along with other Rohingya, attempted to cross the border on February 7. He detailed how they had been met with violence from BGB officers, with him being struck twice while holding his child.

Fortify Rights said the accounts provided by the Rohingya refugees painted a harrowing picture of their desperate attempts to flee persecution, only to encounter further brutality at the hands of the BGB. They described being stranded on Bilashordiya island without food or shelter after being pushed back to Myanmar.

In addition to physical violence, Rohingya refugees reported being subjected to verbal abuse and denial of entry into Bangladesh, despite their pleas for refuge. 

Bangladesh authorities have publicly stated their refusal to accept more Rohingya refugees, citing concerns over security and resources.

Fortify Rights also called attention to the plight of Rohingya refugees fleeing forced conscription into the Myanmar military. The recent introduction of mandatory military service by the Myanmar junta has further endangered Rohingya individuals, who have long been denied citizenship and subjected to persecution.

The rights organization said the actions of the Myanmar military, including indiscriminate attacks on civilians and forced displacement, constituted serious violations of international law. The continued persecution of Rohingya refugees underscored the urgent need for stronger international action to protect vulnerable populations in Myanmar, it added.

Fortify Rights' findings highlight the importance of upholding international obligations to protect refugees and prevent the refoulement of individuals facing persecution. 

As a state party to the  Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), Bangladesh was bound by the principle of non-refoulement, which prohibited the return of individuals to a country where they may face torture or other forms of persecution, Fortify Rights said.

It added that the ongoing persecution of Rohingya refugees underscored the need for accountability and justice for victims of human rights abuses in Myanmar, before also calling on the government of Bangladesh to conduct a thorough investigation into the violence perpetrated against Rohingya refugees and take decisive action to hold those responsible accountable.

Fortify Rights went on to say that as the international community grappled with the ongoing crisis in Myanmar, it was essential that the rights and safety of Rohingya refugees were prioritized. 

Failure to address the root causes of persecution and provide adequate protection for refugees would only perpetuate the cycle of violence and suffering endured by the Rohingya community, it said.

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