Amnesty International has called for a full investigation into the murder of indigenous human rights defender Mithun Chakma, who was gunned down on Wednesday by unidentified miscreants in Khagracchari.
In a statement released Thursday (Bangladesh time), the London-based human rights advocacy group urged the Bangladesh authorities “to hold a rigorous investigation, without delay, into the murder of Indigenous human rights defender, Mithun Chakma, and ensure that any persons against whom credible evidence exists are prosecuted in accordance with international standards of due process.”
Mithun was an indigenous rights campaigner who dedicated himself to fighting for the Jumma, a collective term for the indigenous peoples of the Chittagong Hill Tracts region, after attending Notre Dame College and graduating from Dhaka University with a degree in Linguistics.
Till the end, he remained a central organizer of the United People’s Democratic Front (UPDF), the CHT-based political party that was formed in the wake of the CHT Peace Accords with a sceptical view of the deal signed between the government and the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti, or PCJSS.
The PCJSS is the more longstanding CHT-based political party whose armed wing, the Shanti Bahini, fought a 25-year insurgency against the Bangladeshi state.
The 38-year-old Mithun was also formerly president of the Pahari Chhatra Parishad (Hill Students Council), or PCP, and general secretary of the Democratic Youth Forum.
Local sources said Mithun was returning home at Aparna Chowdhury Para after a scheduled court appearance in a case filed against him under the controversial Section 57 of the ICT Act on Wednesday, when a group of armed assailants abducted him from Aparna Chowdhury Para around 12:30pm.
They then took him to the Sluice Gate area, where they shot him in the head and the abdomen.
Locals found him there in critical condition and rushed him to the nearby hospital, where the doctors on duty pronounced him dead. There were six bullet wounds on his body, the doctors said.
The UPDF meanwhile, has condemned the killing and blamed a vigilante group apparently backed by the Army.
“An army-backed neo masked terror group murdered UPDF Organizer Mithun Chakma in a cowardly, barbaric and unforgivable act of crime. We deeply condemn this murder,” said UPDF General Secretary Rabi Shankar Chakma in a statement.
The PCP, Democratic Youth Forum, and Hill Women’s Federation have brought out protest marches against the killing in different parts of the country, including the capital Dhaka and Chittagong, besides different areas of CHT.
However Bangladeshi organizations or groups purporting to advocate human rights have remained surprisingly quiet, with no word yet from groups such as ASK or Odhikar. It perhaps reflects the shrinking space for human rights defenders to carry out their work in Bangladesh, that the Amnesty statement also touches on.