Mr. Romel Chakma, an 18 years old resident of Nanarchar, was a student of Higher Secondary School at Naniarchar Degree College, in Rangamati Hill District of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, had been tortured to death by officers of the Bangladesh Army. He was the general secretary of Pahari Chhatra Parishad’s (PCP) Rangamati unit.
As per the information received from different news media and ASK’s own source, visually challenged Romel Chakma was picked up by the members of Bangladesh army from Naniarchar Bazaar on April 5, 2017. A severely injured and unconscious Romel was admitted to the Chittagong Medical College Hospital the following day and he died there on April 19, 2017. His family has reportedly alleged that he was cremated under military surveillance without following religious rituals and in absence of the close family members.
Romels relatives also claimed that the police cordoned him off and prevented them from seeing him and monitoring the process of his treatment, under military surveillance. According to the family, on April 20, the police handed Romel’s body over to his relatives for the funeral. On the way, the army soldiers seized the body away from the relatives. On April 21, the soldiers allegedly poured petrol on the body and burned it while the area was under military surveillance.
There are inconsistencies in information regarding the arrest and subsequent death of Romel Chakma. Local police and military are providing contradictory statements of the incident which is troublesome. Lt. Col. Rashedul Hasan, Director of Inter Service Public Relations (ISPR) Directorate said to Deutsche Welle that, Romel was arrested in accusation of burning trucks and plundering in Nanarchar Bazar. On the same day, he was handed over to the police. But, local police disagreed with the statement and said they neither arrested Romel nor took him to hospital. Moreover, there is no complaint or case against him in the police station.
Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) is deeply concerned over the death of Romel. ASK considers the allegation raised by Romel’s family is very serious which has already created tension and anxiety among people. Moreover, such allegations against military personnel is unexpected and a reflection of unprofessional attitude. ASK demands for a judicial investigation into the death to provide justice to the victim’s families.
- Rangamati police started investigating the death of Romel Chakma on 24 April 2017. According to the Superintendent of police in Rangamati, the investigation would focus on identifying the cause of death. (24 April 2017, Daily Star)
- The National Human Rights Commission formed a three-member facts-finding committee on the death of Romel. Headed by Banchita Chakma, the three-member body was asked to submit its report within 15 working days.