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Bangladesh activates lobbying groups in Washington amid growing scrutiny of its human rights record

The Bangladesh government has roped in several lobbying groups and activated them to present the country’s case with top US politicians, influence groups, civil rights groups, and media

Jan 11, 2022
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RAB

The Bangladesh government has roped in several lobbying groups and activated them to present the country’s case with top US politicians, influence groups, civil rights groups, and media. Significantly, in the run-up to US sanctions on the country’s top security officials, these groups had intensified their lobbying in Washington. 

BGR (Barbour, Griffith & Rogers), a Washington-based lobbying and communication firm, has been working for the Hasina government for at least eight years now, according to public information released by the US Department of Justice. The firm has been presenting a case for Bangladesh regarding the allegations of human rights violations by the RAB, an elite anti-crime and anti-terrorism unit of Bangladesh Police, and several other issues, according to Bangladeshi newspaper Prothomalo.  

After a highly critical report by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) last year, the Biden administration sanctioned the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) in December. The US also sanctioned seven former and incumbent RAB officials. Several lobbying groups were engaged in Washington for months before the sanctions came. 

Lobbyist groups in the US, which promote the interests of foreign governments in the corridors of power on high commercial terms, are required to disclose contracts and dealings annually in their filings with the US Department of Justice. However, the rules are very strict when it comes to disclosing contracts and dealings to the Justice Department. 

The Justice Department often prosecutes people who are found to be lobbying for foreign governments without having proper registration.  The lobbying firms don’t disclose interests or issues they lobby for in Washington. 

BGR, which has been working for the Bangladesh government for eight years now, has received $320,000 last year as its fee, according to published documents. Significantly, BGR subsequently roped in several other lobbying groups to support its case for Bangladesh, according to the Prothomalo report. 

Interestingly, despite its criticism of the US move of sanctioning Bangladesh, AK Abdul Momin, Bangladesh’s foreign minister, has expressed Dhaka's willingness to engage with the US on removing misunderstandings and incorporating changes, if needed, in the country’s laws. 

(SAM) 

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