Bangladesh: HRW Reports Police Oppression Against Rohingya Refugees
Another wave of oppression has befallen the Rohingya people as refugees face violence, corruption, and persecution at the hands of Bangladesh’s Armed Police Battalion (APBn), according to a Human Rights Watch report.
Described as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world, the Rohingya have scattered themselves across South Asia following an ethnic cleansing at the hands of the Myanmar military that has been condemned by international bodies as a genocide.
The resulting refugee crisis, one of the fastest growing today, has seen more than a million flee across the border to Bangladesh; their stateless status, however, has resulted in their prolonged placement in refugee camps, where they are by and large left to fend for themselves.
In July 2020, APBn assumed control of Bangladesh’s Rohingya population in order to ensure law and order. What human rights groups have noticed, however, is a dramatic deterioration in the situation on the ground as police abuse—as well as alleged collusion with criminals—have seized control of the lives of those displaced.
“Abuses by police in the Cox’s Bazar camps have left Rohingya refugees suffering at the hands of the very forces who are supposed to protect them,” said Shayna Bauchner, Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch.
On the ground interviews conducted by the advocacy group reported police corruption that includes false drug charges and violence-related offenses.
Over the past few years, hundreds in Bangladesh have disappeared or been killed by police in its ‘war on drugs’.
These deaths, Amnesty International said, were attributed by authorities to the suspects engaging in gunfights with law enforcement. Witnesses at the scene said that these gunfights in fact never happened, but rather that it was the official story police intimidated them into making.
For the displaced Rohingya, whenever one is arrested, police demand of their family a bribe of upwards of a thousand dollars, necessitating them to sell what few valuables they have to free their loved ones.
Interviewees also report that, when ABPn officers can’t locate the person they intended to arrest at their home, they would instead arrest that person’s family members. One such case was Kamal Ahmod, 18, whose family says he was arrested by police when they couldn’t locate his father and were unable to solicit a bribe from him.
“My mother went to prison to meet with him yesterday and saw his face was swollen from police beatings…he was tortured mercilessly” Ahmod’s sister said.
Police abuse against the Rohingya, Human Rights Watch says, has escalated to a community wide level. Officers have reportedly destroyed thousands of shops necessary to the refugees’ livelihoods and restricted their freedom of movement within the country.
Deprived of any legal status, the advocacy group says that the Rohingya will continue to face persecution and human rights violations at the hands of law enforcement so long as they remain under their rule.
Bauchner has since called on the country’s authorities to “immediately investigate allegations of widespread extortion and wrongful detention” of the stateless minority group, at the hands of the APBn, and to “hold all those responsible to account.”