In unusual action, US sanctions Bangladesh Police chief and elite force over human rights abuses

The United States has imposed sanctions on Bangladesh's elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and six of its current and former officers for alleged involvement in "grave human rights abuses"

Dec 14, 2021
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In unusual action, US sanctions Bangladesh Police chief and elite force over human rights abuses

The United States has imposed sanctions on Bangladesh's elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and six of its current and former officers for alleged involvement in "grave human rights abuses". They will also be considered ineligible to enter the United States, UNI news agency said. The RAB, headquartered in Dhaka, operates through eleven wings and has fifteen battalions of armed forces and police personnel across the country.

On Friday, the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed sanctions on a total of 10 organizations and 15 individuals from various countries, including Bangladesh, who were found to be involved in human rights abuses and harassment.

Various analyses are going on in Bangladesh about the reaction to such ban on six officers who have important responsibilities in RAB at different times. What is the reason for such a decision of the United States?

Ali Riaz, a political analyst and professor at Illinois State University, says human rights groups have long spoken out against the RAB.

In October of last year, eight members of the Senate wrote a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, making clear allegations against the RAB. Usually the US Treasury and State Department work together on these issues. It is said the action was taken on the basis of clear and precise information to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from the statement of the Finance or Treasury Department.

What will be the result of this ban?

RAB, working under Bangladesh Police, started its journey in 2004 during the previous BNP government. From the very beginning, human rights organizations have been sharply critical of the nature of their work and its activities.

But this is not the first time that the United States has taken such action. 

"If they have assets, the United States can confiscate them. Benazir Ahmed cannot go to the United States. Specifically, he will be considered ineligible to enter the United States," he said.

But he thinks the biggest issue is diplomatic pressure. As a result of the sanctions, there is now a great deal of diplomatic pressure on the Bangladesh government.

Now why such a step?

Human rights organizations in Bangladesh have been raising various allegations against the RAB for a long time, including disappearances and murders. After the revelation of the murder of Councilor Ekram in Cox's Bazar, there was a storm of discussion in the international arena. Earlier, a court had sentenced 17 RAB members to death in connection with the abduction and murder of seven people in Narayanganj, which is still pending in the high court.

However, when the militant group JMB emerged in Bangladesh, the arrest of key militants, including Shaikh Abdur Rahman and Siddiqul Islam, also known as Bangla Bhai, was seen as a success by the RAB. But in the 18 years since the establishment of RAB, various incidents of extrajudicial killings or disappearances have brought the force into controversy.

The US Treasury Department says at least 600 people have been reported missing in Bangladesh's elite police force.

A report in the Treasury Department on Friday states that "widespread allegations of serious human rights abuses against RAB during the anti-drug campaign in Bangladesh - undermining the rule of law, human rights, fundamental freedoms, and economic development of the people of Bangladesh - threaten US national security interests".(SAM)

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