Dhaka, Jan 17 (EFE).- Bangladesh’s Armed Police Battalion (APBn) extorts, arbitrarily arrests and harasses Rohingyas living in refugee camps in Bangladesh, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Tuesday.
“Safety has deteriorated under the APBn’s oversight due to increased police abuses as well as criminal activity,” the nonprofit said in a statement.
“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,” Shayna Bauchner, Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch, said.
Almost all of the cases of alleged abuse by APBn officers against Rohingyas that the organization investigated involved extortion, with the police generally demanding between 10,000 and 14,000 taka ($100-$135) to avoid arrest and between 50,000 and 100,000 taka ($500-$1,000) for the release of a detained family member.
Families of victims of these alleged abuses, most of whom worked as NGO workers and teachers at the refugee camps, were forced “to sell gold jewelry or borrow money for bribes or legal costs,” HRW said.
The organization said that “the APBn crackdown has compounded fear and vulnerability among the one million Rohingya refugees” who have been living in the camps at Cox’s Bazar since fleeing neighboring Myanmar amid a wave of violence and persecution by the country’s military launched in August 2017, a campaign that has resulted in allegations of ethnic cleansing and genocidal intent.
Syed Harun Or Rashid, a commander of an APBn battalion working in the Rohingya camps, denied the allegations of abuse.
“If any individual has any kind of deviation, we always take action. Here we are working, different intelligence agencies, INGOs, UN organizations are working,” he said.
HRW urged the Bangladeshi authorities to “investigate allegations of widespread extortion and wrongful detention,” as well as develop a security policy for the Rohingyas in Bangladesh, who, it said, “lack recognized legal status, which puts them on a precarious footing under domestic law and makes them vulnerable to rights violations.”
The policy should include “comprehensive access to education and livelihoods to reduce illegal and dangerous economic activity,” it added.
“The Bangladesh government has a responsibility under international human rights law to ensure that the rights of everyone in its jurisdiction, including refugees, are protected, and to investigate allegations of abuses by government security forces and hold those responsible to account,” the organization said.
HRW also called for an increase in funding for the 2022 Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya humanitarian crisis, which, it said, received less than half of the $881 million needed for the year.
“The US, UK, and other donors should support projects to promote Rohingya refugees’ safety and protection, while pressing the Bangladesh authorities to end police abuses in the camps,” Bauchner said. EFE