Dhaka, Jul 13 (EFE).- Nonprofit Human Rights Watch on Thursday accused Bangladesh of failing to adequately protect the Rohingya refugees living in its territory amid rising violence in the camps, where at least 48 members of the community were killed in violence in the first half of the year.
“Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s past pledges to protect Rohingya refugees are now threatened by violent groups and an indifferent justice system,” Meenakshi Ganguly, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
The HRW reports the deaths of at least 48 Rohingyas in the first half of 2023, mainly at the hands of armed gangs in the camps, a number which is higher than the 40 deaths registered throughout 2022, apart from the kidnapping of dozens of people who were later tortured.
After interviewing close to 50 Rohingyas living in the camps, the nonprofit also document 26 cases of crimes such as killing, kidnapping, torture, rapes and sexual assault and forced marriage. However, only three complaints resulted in arrests.
The victims alleged the lack of police support, which also translates into the absence of legal and medical aid by Bangladeshi authorities, according to HRW.
“The Bangladesh authorities’ increasingly evident intention to repatriate the Rohingya does not absolve the government of its responsibility to ensure their protection,” Ganguly insisted.
The rising violence, which has claimed the life of 16 community leaders already this year, is linked to armed groups or people affiliated to Islamist groups that intimidate the refugee population with threats to ensure their silence, the camp residents said.
“The majority of these are targeted killings perpetrated by ARSA (Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army) or RSO (Rohingya Solidarity Organization). They can’t do anything openly,” Harun-ur Rashid, commander of one of the three armed police battalions posted in the Rohingya camps, told EFE.
“It is difficult to deal with when someone is secretly targeted. We could prevent most of them, but few isolated incidents are happening,” he claimed.
At least 11 armed groups are active inside the camps, according to data by the Bangladeshi defense ministry quoted in the report.
In one of the latest violent incidents, five people were killed last week at a camp in the Cox’s Bazar district in southeastern Bangladesh after a gunfight between two armed rebel groups.
The ARSA allegedly carried out a series of attacks against the security forces in 2017 in Myanmar’s southern Rakhine province, following which the army launched a brutal retaliatory campaign that led to around 774,000 Rohingyas fleeing to Bangladesh, a figure that has subsequently risen to nearly a million. EFE