Bangladesh: Minority communities must be protected and arsonists face justice

The perpetrators of arson attacks on temples and Buddhist villages in the south of Bangladesh must be brought to justice and steps taken to ensure ethnic minorities are protected, Amnesty International said.More than 20 Buddhist temples and monasteries and at least one Hindu temple, along with scores of homes and shops, were set on fire during attacks in southern cities of Cox’s Bazar and Chittagong over the weekend and on Monday after thousands of people protested against the posting of an allegedly derogatory image of the Quran on social network site Facebook.“The scale and ferocity of these appalling attacks on ethnic communities have shocked Muslims and non-Muslims alike and the entire civil society in the country. The Bangladeshi authorities must ensure this does not happen again,” said Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International’s Bangladesh researcher. “Amnesty International calls on the leaders of all political parties to condemn publicly the violence against minorities and urge their members not take part in such acts.” “Reports that police failed to ensure the protection of minority communities – even though they had received news about imminent attacks – are disturbing, and must be investigated.”The Deputy Inspector General of Police for Chittagong told Amnesty International on Tuesday an investigation had been launched into allegations that the officer in charge of Ramu police station in Cox’s Bazar had neglected his duty to ensure the safety of minority communities. He also said that up to 300 people had been arrested.“The terms of reference for the investigation, called for by the Home Minister, must be made public and strong measures must be put in place to protect Buddhist, Hindu and all other witnesses who give evidence,” Faiz said. “Those identified as responsible for the attack should be brought to justice in adherence to international fair trial standards and all people affected by the violence must be provided with shelter, and assistance to rebuild their homes and places of worship.”The attacks are believed to be the first to have taken place on such a large scale against minority places of worship in Bangladesh.