Ban RAB from UN peacekeeping, 12 rights bodies urge UN

Twelve human rights organisations have called the United Nations to ban Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) from peacekeeping missions.

The organisations made the demand in a letter to UN under-secretary-general Jean-Pierre Lacroix sent privately on 8 November, 2021.

The letter was made public today, according to a media release of HRW.

The Department of Peacekeeping Operations has yet to provide a formal response to the letter, the HRW added.

The signatory organisations are Amnesty International, Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), Asian Human Rights Commission, Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL), Capital Punishment Justice Project, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Human Rights Watch, International Federation for Human Rights, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, The Advocates for Human Rights and World Organization Against Torture (OMCT).

“Human rights organisations have documented widespread RAB abuses. UN human rights experts have also voiced concerns about allegations that members of the unit engaged in torture, enforced disappearances, and other human rights violations,” the HRW noted.

“If secretary general Guterres is serious about ending human rights abuses by UN peacekeepers, he will ensure that units with proven records of abuse like the Rapid Action Battalion are excluded from deployment,” said Kerry Kennedy, president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights.

“The evidence is clear; now it’s time for the UN to draw a line,” HRW quoted Kennedy as saying.

Earlier on 10 December, US departments of state and treasury imposed sanctions on seven current and former officials of RAB alleging the Bangladeshi elite force of involvement with grave human rights violations.

“The deployment of members of the RAB in peacekeeping operations reinforces a message that grave human rights abuses will not preclude one from service under the UN flag and increases the chances of human rights abuses being committed in UN missions,” said Louis Charbonneau, United Nations director at Human Rights Watch.

“The UN should send a clear signal to host and troop-contributing countries that abusive units will not be part of the UN,” he added.