The committee on foreign relations of the United States Senate has urged Trump administration to impose sanctions on senior officials of Bangladesh's elite force Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) for their alleged involvement with extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and torture.
A 10-member bipartisan group of the senators made the call through a letter addressed to US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and secretary of the treasury Steven Mnuchin.
Signatory senators are Bob Menendez, Todd Young, Ben Cardin, Cory Gardner, Jeanne Shaheen, Marco Rubio, Chris Murphy, Chris Coons, Jeff Merkley and Cory Booker.
“We write to express our serious concern about the ongoing human rights violations reportedly perpetrated by the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) of the Bangladesh Police. Since 2015, the RAB has reportedly extrajudicially killed more than 400 people, and the RAB has been credibly implicated in many cases of enforced disappearances and torture. These violations appear to be part of a broader crackdown on dissent by the ruling Awami League, and the RAB has not been held to account. We urge you to impose targeted sanctions on senior RAB commanders responsible for these gross human rights violations under all applicable authorities, including the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and Section 7031(c) of the FY 2020 Further Consolidated Appropriations Act,” wrote the letter.
Home minister Asaduzzaman Khan expressed dissatisfaction over the letter saying such comments about a country's law enforcing agency is unfortunate.
Asked about the letter of the senators, home minister Asaduzzaman Khan defended the elite force saying the RAB fires shots in self-defence while drug dealers attack them. Besides, deputy commissioners investigate every incident of shootout.
The home minister also expressed dissatisfaction over the letter saying such comments about a country's law enforcing agency is unfortunate.
RAB did not torture or force anyone to disappear, he added.
The letter of the senators said that incidents of extrajudicial killings by the RAB have reportedly spiked since the government began its ‘war on drugs’ in the months ahead of the December 2018 elections.
“In a June 2018 communication to the Government of Bangladesh, UN experts including the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary execution wrote that the ‘war on drugs’ “appears to be a deliberate policy of extrajudicial killings” and urged the Government to end it and respect the rule of law and human rights. However, the Government has failed to end these abuses and the RAB continues to commit extrajudicial killings with impunity,” the senators wrote.
In addition to extrajudicial killings, UN experts, journalists, and human rights groups have documented cases of the RAB committing enforced disappearances and widespread torture, the letter said.
The letter urged the administration to respond strongly to what they call the RAB’s ongoing violations.