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Dhaka Tribune

EU: Human rights situation in Bangladesh still worrying

The EU high representative’s reply to MEP does not say anything about sanctions on RAB

Update : 22 Mar 2022, 06:51 PM

Bangladesh has achieved remarkable socio-economic development but the human rights situation in the country continues to be worrying, especially the shrinking space for civil and political rights, a top European Union (EU) official has said.

Extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances are a matter of major concern, Josep Borrell, high representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission, said in reply to a letter from Ivan Stefanec, a member European Parliament (MEP) from Slovakia.

On January 20, MEP Stefanec wrote to Borrell asking to impose sanctions on the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), accusing the elite force of being involved in extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.

He also asked for help against the police and Government of Bangladesh.

At the time, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen dismissed the letter, calling it absurd, while EU Ambassador in Dhaka Charles Whiteley described the letter as personal correspondence.

Responding to the letter from Stefanec, EU High Representative Borrell did not mention any sanctions on RAB, but referred to some allegations against the security forces in Bangladesh.

MEP Stefanec has shared the reply with Dhaka Tribune.      

“As one of the most densely populated, disaster-prone and climate change affected countries in the world, Bangladesh has been very successful in reducing poverty and increasing access to primary education in the last decades.
 
 “The EU appreciates its longstanding partnership with Bangladesh on multiple fronts, including on trade [Bangladesh is the largest beneficiary of the EU’s Everything But Arms preferential trade scheme in the world], development cooperation [Bangladesh benefits from the largest bilateral envelope under Global Europe-NDICI in Asia], migration, climate action and regional security,” said Borrell in his reply.

“We notably appreciate Bangladesh's contribution to regional security and stability by hosting approximately 1 million Rohingya refugees who fled Myanmar,” he said.

The EU high representative said: “Despite this remarkable socio-economic development, the human rights situation in the country continues to give rise to concerns, notably the shrinking space for civil and political rights.

“Local and international observers, including the UN Committee against Torture (CAT) and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), continue to raise concerns over allegations of widespread use of torture and ill-treatment by security forces. Extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances remain a matter of major concern and require thorough and conclusive investigations as well as full accountability for those responsible.

Furthermore, he said: “The Digital Security Act (DSA) imposes undue restrictions on freedom of expression in the digital space, and we welcome signals from the government that the DSA will be aligned to international standards.

“Please be assured that the EU remains in constant dialogue with Bangladesh’s authorities on the whole spectrum of our relations, including our Human Rights agenda. The upcoming EU-Bangladesh Joint Commission and Subgroup on Good Governance and Human Rights are notable venues to continue these discussions,” Borrell concluded. 

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