Bangladesh to charge 16 after girl burned to death

Rafi's death sparked protests in the community. (File/AFP)
Updated 29 May 2019

Bangladesh to charge 16 after girl burned to death

  • The prime minister promised to prosecute all those involved in the murder of Nusrat Jahan Rafi
  • Rafi refused to withdraw a sexual harassment complaint against the head teacher of the institution

DHAKA: Bangladesh police were set to file charges on Wednesday against 16 people, including the headmaster of an Islamic seminary, over the shocking murder of a 19-year-old girl burned to death.
The killing of Nusrat Jahan Rafi last month sparked protests across the South Asian nation, with the prime minister promising to prosecute all those involved.
Rafi was lured to the rooftop of the Islamic seminary she attended where her attackers asked her to withdraw a sexual harassment complaint filed with police against the head teacher.
When she refused, she was doused in kerosene and set on fire. She died five days later, triggering outrage. Her death highlighted alarming rise in sexual harassment cases in the country.
Bangladesh’s Police Bureau of Investigation said they would file the chargesheet in a court in the country’s south later on Wednesday against the 16 people who include two girls who were classmates of Rafi.
“They are charged under the women and children repression law and we’ll recommend death penalty for all 16 accused,” PBI lead investigator Mohammad Iqbal told AFP.
Iqbal said the Principal of the Sonagazi Islamia Senior Fazil Madrasa Siraj Ud Doula where Rafi was a student ordered the murder from jail.
Rafi had gone to police in late March to report the alleged sexual harassment against the teacher, and a leaked video shows the local police station chief registering her complaint but dismissing it as “not a big deal.”
Iqbal said at least five people including three of Rafi’s classmates, had tied her up with a scarf before setting her on fire. The plan was to pass the incident off as a case of suicide.
Rafi suffered burns to 80 percent of her body and died in hospital on April 10. But she recorded a video before her death, repeating her allegations against the principal.
Rafi’s brother Mahmudul Hasan Noman said they want a fast-track trial. “We want all the culprits to be hanged to death,” he told AFP.
The head of Mahila Parishad, a women’s rights group, gave a “guarded welcome” at the quick investigation of the case but said more needed to be done to end a “culture of impunity” over sexual harassment and rape cases.
“Very few rape cases end in convictions,” she said.
According to the group, about 950 women were raped in Bangladesh last year.


Philippines’ military to retrain former armed rebels for new roles as peacekeepers

Updated 4 min 22 sec ago

Philippines’ military to retrain former armed rebels for new roles as peacekeepers

  • The 3,000 former fighters will receive basic military training to prepare them for their new role as members of the Joint Peace and Security Teams

MANILA: The Philippines military is retraining 3,000 former armed rebels for their new roles as peacekeepers in the country’s south, serving alongside the agencies and authorities they used to fight against.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was one of several groups that waged a rebellion in the Mindanao region that claimed about 150,000 lives since the 1970s. 

The government and the MILF signed a peace pact to end the decades-long conflict and, under the deal, the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao was expanded and the MILF plays a role in its governance.

MILF chair Murad Ibrahim, who is chief minister of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao, said the training was part of the peace process.

“We are now working with them (government forces). Everyone has already accepted that we are no longer adversarial with the government. We are now in partnership,” he told Arab News.

“We expected that this kind of partnership with the military would happen, especially when we entered into a political process, a peace process. There were no personal adversarial relations. It was just a matter of principle,” he said, adding they were ready to work with the government for the sake of lasting peace in the region.

The chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr., said the military was committed to continuing with the “process of healing, and the process of normalization” in Bangsamoro.

“We have long dreamed for peace in the Bangsamoro region,” he added, emphasizing that maintaining “mutual trust” between the government and the MILF was crucial to the process.

“One thing that we should further develop is the willingness to work together. This can only happen with the start of the healing process, and confidence-building between the armed forces and the MILF.”

The 3,000 former fighters will receive basic military training to prepare them for their new role as members of the Joint Peace and Security Teams (JPST), where they will serve with the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

The JPST is tasked with ensuring the successful implementation of the normalization track of the 2014 peace accord between the MILF and Manila, which includes the decommissioning of MILF forces.

On Thursday, the AFP and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process signed an agreement to formalize their partnership in implementing the decommissioning process for 40,000 MILF fighters and their weapons in the next three years.

Madrigal said the training course aimed to achieve the “same views towards security, to develop the same parameters, and synchronization of the movement” to maintain peace and order in Bangsamoro’s communities.

Earlier this month, 225 grizzled ex-fighters started their training at in Carmen, North Cotabato. Former rebel Abdulraof Macacua said this type of event was “simply unimaginable” many years ago.

 “No-one ever thought that the MILF would ever be in a military camp such as Camp Lucero to undertake military training … and with soldiers at that,” he added.