A human rights group has accused a special unit of the Bangladesh police of abusing Rohingya refugees living in the camps in Cox’s Bazar. Fortify Rights said the Armed Police Battalion (APBn) is engaged in arbitrary arrests, torture and extortion of the refugees, who fled a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar in 2017.
According to Fortify Rights, the APBn officers beat Rohingya refugees with batons, choked them and used other methods of torture to force them to pay bribes, sometimes amounting to thousands of US dollars. The group said it documented at least 16 cases of serious abuse by the APBn, based on interviews with refugees and aid workers.
The APBn is a specialized combat unit of the Bangladesh police force that took over the security of the camps in July 2020. Since then, the safety and security situation in the camps has deteriorated, according to Rohingya researchers and activists. The APBn has also faced allegations of restricting the freedom of movement, work and education of the refugees.
The Rohingya are a mostly Muslim minority who have faced persecution and discrimination in Myanmar for decades. In 2017, more than 700,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh after the Myanmar military launched a violent campaign against them, which the UN has said amounted to genocide. The refugees have been living in overcrowded and squalid camps in Cox’s Bazar, which host nearly one million Rohingya.
The Bangladesh government has been trying to relocate some of the refugees to a remote island called Bhasan Char, which critics say is prone to flooding and cyclones. The government has also been negotiating with Myanmar for a repatriation deal, but many Rohingya are reluctant to return without guarantees of their safety and citizenship rights.