Alarmed by reports about human rights violations that kept pouring in from the Hill Tracts since the
seventies human rights organisations and NGO’s started taking up the issue and gave wide publicity to it.
Questions were raised at the United Nations and the International Labour Organisation. However, the
Bangladesh government continuously denied that there were any problems at all. The idea for an
independent international commission of investigation arose during December 1985 when the then
Bangladesh Minister of Finance announced to a meeting at the Danish Parliament in Copenhagen that the
Bangladesh government would be delighted to welcome a mission to the CHT. In 1986 the first International Conference on the Chittagong Hill Tracts was held in Amsterdam and there a resolution was
passed to establish an independent commission to investigate allegations of human rights violations in the
At the end of 1989 the Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission was officially established at the initiative of the
International Working Group on Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) and the Organising Committee Chittagong Hill
Tracts Campaign. The Commission is jointly chaired by Douglas Sanders (Professor of Law) from Canada
and Wilfried Telkämper (Vice President of the European Parliament) from Germany. Other Commissioners
are Rose Murray (Aboriginal Community Worker) from Western Australia, Leif Dunfjeld (Sami Lawyer) from
Norway and Hans Pavia Rosing (Representative in the Danish Parliament) from Greenland.
The Commission was ready to travel in November 1990. Four resource persons were requested by the
Commission to be present for the trip to India and Bangladesh: Teresa Aparicio (Denmark), Jenneke Arens
(the Netherlands), Andrew Gray (Great Britain) and Wolfgang Mey (Germany). Unfortunately at the last
minute the Commissioners Leif Dunfjeld and Hans Pavia Rosing were unable to travel due to ill health and
the latter due to a general election in Denmark.
After obtaining permission from the Indian government the Commission visited the refugee camps in
Tripura from 21-26 November and after that proceeded to Bangladesh. The Bangladesh authorities
reconfirmed their permission to travel to the Hill Tracts and the General Officer Commanding (GOC)
Chittagong of the 24th Infantry Division of the Bangladesh Army gave the final approval. He gave the
assurance that the Commission could travel freely and unlimited in the Chittagong Hill Tracts and would be
allowed to talk to anyone in private. The army co-operated as much as possible with the Commission
throughout its visit. The Commission spent in total 23 days in the hills in December 1990.
Previously several missions to the Chittagong Hill Tracts, among others by the ILO and Amnesty Internatio-
nal, had been carried out, however, they had very restricted access to the area and had been continuously
accompanied by the military. Thanks to the generosity of the Bangladesh authorities the Chittagong Hill
Tracts Commission was the first fact-finding team ever that was given permission to do their investigation
work freely in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.