Bangladesh: Indigenous Activist Dies in Military Custody

The Bangladesh authorities should immediately conduct an independent and transparent investigation into the death in custody of an Indigenous political activist, Human Rights Watch said today. Any officers found responsible for Nabayan Chakma Milon’s torture and death should be held accountable.

The Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission, an independent rights group in the region, said that soldiers detained Milon in Dighinala sub-district on March 15, 2022, at 3:30 a.m. while he was recovering from a medical procedure. Witnesses saw the soldiers beating and kicking Milon for over an hour until he was “half dead,” barely conscious, and appearing to have broken limbs. The soldiers then took him away in a military vehicle. Nearly four hours later, soldiers brought Milon to Dighinala Upazila Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

“Nabayan Chakma Milon’s tragic death is just the most recent case in a pattern of abuses by the Bangladesh military in the Chittagong Hill Tracts,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities should immediately open an independent and transparent investigation into Milon’s death as well as other cases of military abuse in the CHT that the government has persistently ignored.”

Milon was a member of the United People’s Democratic Front (UPDF), an ethnic political party with some armed factions in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The party was formed in 1998 by Indigenous groups that were dissatisfied with the terms of the 1997 Peace Accords signed between the Bangladesh government and the armed insurgent group Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS), ending a twenty-year conflict in the Chittagong Hill Tracts over Indigenous autonomy and land rights. Under the 1997 Peace Accords, the Bangladesh government committed to military withdrawals and transfer of authority to representative Hill District Councils, including over local police, land management, and environmental protection.