Saturday, August 30, 2008

Jumma Man Killed After Speaking Out On Land Thefts

Thursday, 28 August 2008, 11:16 am
Press Release: Survival International

Bangladesh: Jumma Man Killed After Speaking Out Over Land Thefts
Jumma man Ladu Moni Chakma was hacked to death on Tuesday by a group of Bengali settlers at his home in the Sajek area of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh. His wife, Shanti Bala Chakma, who was also attacked, was taken to hospital.
Local people believe that Ladu Moni Chakma was targeted because he had given information to members of the recently reformed Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Commission about settlers stealing land from the indigenous tribes of the area.
The eleven tribes in the Chittagong Hill Tracts are collectively known as Jummas after their practice of ‘shifting cultivation’, known locally as ‘Jhum’. Hundreds of thousands of settlers have been moved into the Hill Tracts over the last sixty years, displacing the Jumma people and subjecting them to violent repression.
The Bangladesh army has recently intensified its programme to settle Bengalis in the area. In April, settlers, with the support of the military, burnt seven Jumma villages in the Sajek region after disputes over land thefts. Jumma villagers, including women and children, were beaten in the attack.
In 1997 the government and the Jummas signed a peace accord that committed the government to removing military camps from the region and to ending the theft of Jumma land by settlers and the army. The accord offered hope, but military camps remain in the Hill Tracts and violence and land grabbing continue. Abuses have escalated since the declaration of emergency rule in Bangladesh in January 2007.
The international Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission (CHTC), formed in 1990, was instrumental in informing the world of the gross human rights violations taking place in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. It operated until 2001. Now, the CHTC has reformed and has just undertaken a preliminary investigation in the Hill Tracts from 7-10 August 2008. The co-chairs include Vice Chair of the UK Parliamentary Human Rights Group, Lord Avebury, and the eminent Bangladeshi human rights activist, Ms. Sultana Kamal. The commission called on the government to speed up the implementation of the 1997 peace accord.


Chagos Islands meeting

This has been a quiet week. Wednesday afternoon Olivier Bancoult, Leader of the Chagos Islanders, came here with representatives of the Chagossians from Mauritius, Seychelles and UK, and we had a good discussion on strategy, particularly what we are intending to do in Parliament when it ressembles on October 6. Watch this space.

Friday I had a date with haematology outpatients at King's, to check on possible recurrence of the melanoma which was removed in April 2006, see photos on my blog at the time. The consultant is writing to my GP and sending me copy, an excellent practice. My only gripe with the communication at King's is that they don't use email, for reasons that aren't explained.

Also visited Mr Harvey, Dulwich Chiropractors, for some work on my neck, somewhat improved since I first went to him, but never likely to be restored to its original condition.

Lunchtime, Alex Feakes, LibDem Parliamentary Spokesperson for Lewisham West and Penge (a new Parliamentary constituency) came to discuss his work. Alex is a very energetic and hardworking Councillor, with lots of good ideas, and I hope to be able to make some contribution to his plans.

In the afternoon, an interview with Julia Pettengill, who is working on a study for the Henry Jackson Society on the prevention of genocide.

Friday and Saturday ping-pong, 2-0 to JW and 1-1 today, cumulative score 91-88 in my favour.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Ping pong in the dusk

All day at the desk, though I don't seem to have achieved a great deal!

Wrote to the Minister Derek Twigg MP about the Buddhist chaplaincy to the armed forces; dealt with an Ivoirean in Dover Immigration Removal Centre with a heart condition, who is about to be deported, though he has lived in the UK for 15 years; has been married to a British citizen for 12 years, and has a 15-year old son by a previous partner.

Spoke to various people about the case of two girls aged 10 and 13 who were kidnapped on June 26 in Muzaffargah, Pakistan, and forcibly married. Incredibly, the parents have so far not been able to regain custody of the two girls after two court hearings. This should be a matter for the police rather than the courts, but the criminal law doesn't appear to cover kidnapping in Pakistan, or to prohibit marriage of little girls under the age of 16. This case hasn't yet attracted any international condemnation, but I hope that submissions will be made to the UN Committee on the Rights of theChild and the UN Rapporteur on Violence against Women.

Ping-pong: 1-1 again today, cumulative score 91-86 in my favour.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

From the platform

Hassan Mushaima speaking

Bahrain seminar

Bahrain:; failed political experiment, serious human rights violations

At the seminar on Bahrain held today at 1 abbey Gardens the main speakers were: former MP and political prisoner Ali Rabia; Kevin Lau of Redress; Hassan Mushaima, Secretary-General of the Haq Democracy Movement; Dr Abdulhadi Khalaf of Lund University, Sweden; Ms Faiza Haq of the Islamic Human Rights Commission; Hussain Abdulla, Director of Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, and Marc Pellas, a human rights activist from France.

My speech at the seminar:

For the last few years, we have held this event to review the human rights situation in Bahrain, to coincide with the two most important events in the state’s recent history: independence on August 15, 1971, and the dissolution of the Parliament and suspension of the constitution on August 26, 1975. And every year we have to acknowledge that in spite of the paper commitments to human rights by the hereditary dictatorship, there has been no real improvement on the ground.

This year, we have the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review of Bahrain, like the rest of them so far a low-key affair but all the same pointing to the main areas of concern. The High Commissioner’s Office, for instance, takes up a theme which has been highlighted every year at these meetings: that although Bahrain has signed the Convention Against Torture, Decree Law 56 of 2002 extended a blanket amnesty to the perpetrators of torture before that date, and denied access to redress to the victims. The Committee Against Torture expressed concern in the same report about extended periods of incommunicado detention after the Convention was ratified; inadequate safeguards for detainees including access to legal advice, medical assistance and visits by family members, and the absence of any mechanism for allowing independent monitors to visit places of detention without prior notice, despite assurances by the government. In the UN compilation of stakeholders’ reports, the Asian Center for Human Rights say that security forces continue to practice torture, an allegation repeated separately by Frontline Defenders. Indeed the US State Department reports allegations of torture by Human Rights Watch and the newspaper Al Wasat, which are not included in the UN summary.

In these circumstances, it was alarming to read the king’s threats against human rights defenders, who are being targeted for their alleged loyalty to ‘foreign agendas’. The agendas in question are those of the UN Human Rights Council, the Treaty Bodies and Special Procedures, established by the General Assembly without dissent, and if Bahrain doesn’t endorse these agendas, it should resign its seat on the Council.

The king’s menaces were particularly directed towards “those whom we pardoned after being in exile”, implying that the exiles had committed criminal offences. If that had been the case, they wouldn’t have qualified for refugee status under the Convention, and their offence in the eyes of the régime was to stand up for human rights and democracy. When the reforms were instituted in 2001 that led to the recall of the exiles, the king used the language of human rights and democracy, so it was his late father who might have been pardoned, not the exiles.

But its when we turn to what the High Commissioner’s report says on freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly that we see the hollowness of the 2001 settlement, and the strenuous efforts made to stifle criticism of it. The Committee Against Torture recommends that inappropriate restrictions on human rights NGOs be lifted, and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination criticises particularly the banning of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, as also does the Special Representative of the Secretary-General. The Special Representative expresses concern about what appears to be a pattern of arrests by human rights defenders, all too likely to continue in the light of the fact that some of the most prominent human rights activists, like Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, President of the banned BCHR, are amongst the returnees. Mr Al-Khawaja and Mr Hassan Mushaima, the Secretary-General of the Haq Democracy Movement, had already been arbitrarily arrested by the security services for their legitimate and peaceful activities, and their case was highlighted in the report to the UN General Assembly in March 2008 by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on human rights defenders, Hina Jilani.

Another case taken up by the Special Representative, together with the Rapporteurs on freedom of expression and on violence against women was that of Mrs Ghada Jamsheer, against whom a ban was imposed from being reported by either the print or broadcasting media after she had called for the dissolution of the Supreme Council for Women, which is headed by the king’s wife, on the grounds that after the Council spent $660,000 on the empowerment of women, not a single woman was elected to the Parliament or municipal councils. Ms Jamsheer also committed the unforgivable sin of listing the women members of the ruling family and their hangers-on who had been appointed to prestigious jobs, albeit without real power, such as members of the Shura Council.

Finally, in these brief introductory remarks, I have to mention the régime’s stealthy but inexorable policy of demographic engineering, not adequately covered by the UPR because it doesn’t fit neatly into any of the categories of human rights violations covered by the Treaty Bodies or the Special Procedures. All the same, it is covered in the submissions by the Islamic Human Rights Commission and the Asian Commission for Human Rights. The IHRC point out that thousands of foreign Sunni Muslims in the military and security services are allowed to vote, and ACHR report on the granting of citizenship to Sunni Arabs from elsewhere in the region to reduce and in the end reverse the Shi’a majority. We have had evidence of this practice over several years, and apart from the dilution and ultimate elimination of cultural identity, which Haq proposes should be examined by a UN commission of inquiry, it leads to the impoverishment of the original population, by the preference granted to Sunni immigrants in jobs and housing. Dr Salah al-Bander was expelled from Bahrain in 2006 for his detailed exposure of high level corruption and discrimination against the Shi’a, and before that the International Crisis Group reported in May 2005 on Bahrain’s Sectarian Challenge. But since the UN are not going to examine the grievances of the majority community and the government’s plan to make them into a minority in their own land, perhaps we should solicit the detailed evidence that would be needed to build on the ICG report and Bandergate. If this meeting agreed, we could establish a web address to which people could email facts about immigration, the granting of citizenship to newcomers, and their own experience of discrimination, in confidence. Lets see if we can do something more than talk about these issues, valuable though it is to send a message to the masses who are silenced in Bahrain.


At the end of the meeting it was agreed unanimously that we would initiate a web-based inquiry into the irregular granting of citizenship to persons from the neighbouring Arab world which the Minister of Cabinet Affairs said recently had raised the population from an expected 746,000 in 2008 to an actual 1,047,000. The number of foreign Sunnis granted citizenship is said to be 360,000.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

An easy week

So far this week I've had only one engagement, a call from the new Sri Lanka High Commissioner. The rest of the time I have spent attacking the mass of post and emails that had accumulated while I was in Bangladesh.

But there has been time for two bouts of ping-pong with JW, both of which were 1-1 draws, making the total 90-85.

Monday, August 18, 2008

High Elms

This was the annual picnic for the descendants of my grandfather, who are fairly numerous. He had 12 children, of whom Uncle Johnny was a bachelor, Uncles Harold and Eric were killed in 1917, and Harold's son John died in 1971. The picnic is held on the lawn which now extends over the site of the house, which was burned down in 1968.

Above the lawns is the site of the Kingsgate Clock, which was stolen at some point after the fire, but the inscription is still there:

30 April 1913

A Birthday Gift to greet him when he came
Home from the weary town Fourscore save one
Ke heard and smiled his thanks but Ah the Flame
Of Life burned low. Soon were we left alone
Yet Love survives all whilst this Clock doth chime
It tells of love outlasting measured time

Lyulph arranged a splendid exhibition of photographs in the Visitor Centre, which is well-attended. The High Elms estate is now a public amenity run by the London Borough of Bromley, who look after it well.

High Elms picnic

In the CHT, including pillion ride on a track through the jungle

Bangladesh etc

Since the last entry I travelled to Bangladesh August 5, arriving the following morning, and returning August 15, see press release.

Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission
Bangladesh Secretariat: 10/11, Iqbal Road, Mohammadpur, Dhaka 1207
Embargo: 3pm, 14th August 2008



On 31 May and 1 June, 2008, at a meeting of experts in Copenhagen, Denmark, it was decided to re-establish the Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission (CHTC) in view of the situation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh with the following mandate:

“To promote respect for human rights, democracy and restoration of civil and judicial rights in the CHT in Bangladesh, including examination of the implementation of the CHT Accord of 1997. The CHT Commission will build on the work by the first CHT Commission. (1990-2001).”

The Commission has been re-constituted with twelve members from Bangladesh and abroad, and is co-chaired by Lord Eric Avebury, Ms. Sultana Kamal and Dr. Ida Nicolaisen.

The re-constituted Commission held its first visit to Bangladesh from 6th August to 14th August 2008, with the aim of becoming familiar with the situation in the CHT, holding initial meetings with concerned parties and seeking their input into possible actions to be taken and recommendations to be made by the Commission.

During its visit to Dhaka and the CHT, the Commission met a cross-section of society, including government officials, members of the armed forces and local government representatives, political parties, representatives of concerned organisations and affected persons. At meetings with senior leaders of several political parties, the Commission gathered more information on their views on the CHT Accord and their policies for indigenous peoples in the CHT. Civil society representatives in Dhaka and in the CHT shared their concerns regarding lack of implementation of the Accord. High-level officials of the diplomatic community also met with the Commission to listen to their initial impressions on the visits and dialogues held and to exchange views on ways forward.

During its visit to the CHT, the Commission was welcomed by individuals from different communities in the CHT, and received extensive submissions. Uncertainties about land, livelihood and security were constant refrains. There was a common view about the urgent need for peace in the region and for implementation of the Peace Accord, although there were diverse views on the possible means available. The Commission received many reports about ethnic tensions and disharmony, particularly on questions of land occupation and ownership.

The Commission is still at an initial stage of its operations. In the coming months, it will gather and establish a database on information received during and after the first mission. In the light of this evidence, it will then frame recommendations to the Government of Bangladesh and all parties concerned in establishing peace in the CHT. To this end, the Commission takes this opportunity to call for submissions from all concerned persons to its Secretariat by 30th November 2008.

In the meantime, the Commission requests the Government to take steps to ensure that those seeking to communicate with the Commission are able to do so safely and securely. It also asks for early measures to be taken to activate the Land Commission, subject to any necessary amendments, to activate the Refugee Rehabilitation Task Force and also to accelerate dialogue and action for the implementation of the Peace Accord. Finally, it would urge all concerned, in the course of preparation for elections, to emphasise the protection of the civil liberties and democratic rights of all persons throughout the CHT, without discrimination, and with due respect for the protection of rights of disadvantaged communities.


Schedule of Meetings during CHT Commission Visit 6-14 August 2008

The Commission held meetings with persons, groups and parties considered to be important stakeholders on the CHT issue, including:

Adviser to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury
Adviser to the Ministries of Food, Health and Disaster Management, Dr. A.M.M. Shawkat Ali
Advisor to the Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs, Barrister Raja Devasish Ray
Chief of the Bangladesh Army, General Moeen U. Ahmed
Chairman, CHT Regional Council, Mr. Jyotindriyo Bodhipriyo Larma
Chairman and Members of the Hill District Council, Bandarban and Khagrachari
Deputy Commissioners, Bandarban, Khagrachari, Rangamati
Bohmong Circle Chief, Bandarban
Brigade Commanders and other officers, Bandarban, Khagrachari and Rangamati Cantonments
Chairman of the Repatriated Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons Rehabilitation Task Force
Editors and journalists of national newspapers
Political parties and organisations, including the Awami League, Bangladesh Nationalist Party, Communist Party of Bangladesh, Jamaat-e-Islami, Jatio Samajtantrik Dal (JSD), Sammyabadi Dal, Parbotto Chottogram Jono Shonghoti Shomiti (PCJSS), United Peoples’ Democratic Front, Workers’ Party
Civil Society Representatives, including human rights, women’s rights and land and forest rights activists, academics, lawyers and journalists in Dhaka and Bandarban, Khagrachari and Rangamati
Members of the Shomo Odhikar Andolon, Bandarban, Khagrachari, Rangamati
Members of the Adi o Sthayi Bangali Porishod, Khagrachari and Rangamati
UNDP/UNDP CHT Development Facility

The Commission also conducted on site visits to:
Korollarchari, Khagrachari (a site of a dispute over land for a Buddhist Khyiang)
Baghaihat, Sajek Union, Rangamati (site of a recent arson incident on 20th April) and
Dui Tila and Char-Kilo area (site of a land dispute)
Boragram, Dighinala (meeting with refugees rehabilitated post-Emergency)

Monday, August 04, 2008


I won 2-0 this evening so its 88-83
These pictures were taken after the concluding evidence-taking session of the inquiry by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Pneumococcal Disease. Its a pity our Select Committee reports can't be livened up with a few photographs.

with Dr Orin Levine of PneumoADIP

With Nic Rea and Dr Orin Levine

With (left to right) Laura Mittelman, Lord Rea, Julia Warren and Linda Glennie from the Meningitis Research Foundation

With Prof Tumani Corrah from the MRC Gambia

William Lubbock, 5g grandfather, aet su 49

Elizabeth Cooper, 5g grandmother, ~ 1749, aet su 30

Dinner with Phil Lordship Lane Saturday

With Members of the Mosque Committee

At the Brick Lane Mosque

Last Post

As I'm off to Bangladesh tomorrow, and am away for 10 days, this is the last post for some time.

Last Thursday I met retired Major-General Amsa Amin; then had my cousin Anthony Pitt-Rivers to lunch to look at the portraits of the elder Pitt's father and his wife Harriet Villiers in Committee Room 3; then a useful meeting with Nadeem Kazmi, international director of the al-Khoei Foundation and an old friend.

Friday I was invited to the Brick Lane Mosque after Friday prayers, and had a very friendly meeting with the Mosque Committee.

Phil Krone arrived for the weekend, and on Saturday we went to Knole, for the first time in over 20 years.

This morning I did an interview for the release in October of the All-Party Group's forthcoming report on combatting pneumococcal disease, and later the wonderful Jacqueline Taber arrived with the restored portraits of the Rev William Lubbock, Rector of Lammas, and his wife Elizabeth Cooper, beautifully restored.

Ping pong: two more games to record since the last entry, 2-0 to me and 1-1. Cumulative score 86-83 to me.