US sanctions on Bangladesh security officials are biased and motivated

Extrajudicial killings are taking place in many countries such as Pakistan but the US is directing its ire at Bangladesh

Jubeda Chowdhury Dec 15, 2021
Bangladesh Rapid Action Battalion (Photo: The Wire)

When Bangladesh’s law enforcement and security agencies are working to curb extremism, terrorism and separatism to bring peace in the South Asian region, the US has imposed sanctions on senior Bangladesh officials. It is an inappropriate move.  

The contribution of Bangladesh’s security and law enforcement agencies are well known. Bangladesh ensured that the region including India’s northeast was free from terrorism, extremism and separatism. Bangladeshi agencies established an example by acting against ULFA and JMB terrorists.  

But on the occasion of International Human Rights Day, the US Treasury Department announced sanctions on the assets of 15 individuals and 10 organizations in various countries for serious human rights violations. The US also imposed sanctions on Bangladesh's Special Police Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and six of its officers. 

Ignoring Pakistani abuses 

Extrajudicial killings are taking place even in many countries such as Pakistan but we do not see any action against them. Extrajudicial killings are going on in Pakistan’s Balochistan. But the US turns a blind eye. Why? Because it needs Pakistan to serve its vested interests in Afghanistan. It is clear that America’s policies are biased. They have targeted a peaceful country like Bangladesh, which is actually a role model for counter-terrorism. 

Bangladesh has expressed dissatisfaction over the US sanctions. The US ambassador to Dhaka, Earl R. Miller, was summoned to express Dhaka’s strong feelings. Millions go missing in the US each year. Police in the US kill thousands every year. In the case of Bangladesh, security forces may fire back to save lives when terrorists attack. But Bangladesh is being punished. 

The US has motives behind what it has done. The US wants Bangladesh to sign two defence agreements. Bangladesh wants to buy advanced equipment from the US as part of its goal to modernize the military by 2030.  But Bangladesh is not interested in signing the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) and the Acquisition Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) with the US. This may be a reason Dhaka has been hit. 

Israeli is ok, Bangladesh is not 

When Palestinian children hurl stones at Israelis who attack their homes, the Israeli forces fire indiscriminately. The US has not imposed sanctions on Israelis. If a country proposes condemnation in the UN of Israeli human rights abuses, Washington vetoes it. So, the American sanction against Bangladesh is motivated. 

The US has sanctioned seven people, including the Bangladesh Police chief and a RAB DG. Allegedly, there were extrajudicial killings. But the number of extrajudicial killings in the US is high each year than in Bangladesh. Moreover, there are several countries in South Asia where extrajudicial killings are taking place. So, why pick on Bangladesh? 

(The author has a Master's degree in International Relations from the University of Dhaka. The views expressed are personal. She can be contacted at 


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