Senators Bob Menendez, Todd Young, Ben Cardin, Cory Gardner, Jeanne Shaheen, Marco Rubio, Chris Murphy, Chris Coons, Jeff Merkley, and Cory Booker signed the letter
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee of the US government has urged the Trump administration to impose sanction on the senior officials of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), for reportedly killing more than 400 people extrajudicially since 2015.
In a bipartisan letter addressed to the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, the senators sought the imposition under applicable authorities, including the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and Section 7031(c) of the FY 2020 Further Consolidated Appropriations Act.
The committee issued a press statement in this regard on Tuesday.
In the letter, the statement said, the senators wrote: “Extrajudicial killings by the RAB have reportedly spiked since the Government of Bangladesh began its ‘war on drugs’ in the months ahead of the December 2018 elections. 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 also expressed concerns that RAB had been credibly implicated in human rights abuses beyond these extrajudicial killings, the statement said.
“In addition to extrajudicial killings, UN experts, journalists, and human rights groups have documented cases of the RAB committing enforced disappearances and widespread torture, including the 2019 abduction and suspected torture by the RAB of three men whose employer had a dispute with a high-ranking Bangladesh government official," the senators was quoted as saying in the statement.
“These cases illustrate a pattern of gross human rights violations for which the Rapid Action Battalion and its senior leadership have faced no consequences,” it concluded.
Senators Bob Menendez, Todd Young, Ben Cardin, Cory Gardner, Jeanne Shaheen, Marco Rubio, Chris Murphy, Chris Coons, Jeff Merkley, and Cory Booker signed the letter.
A copy of the letter can be found here.
This comes nearly three months after Bangladesh was rocked by the death of a retired army officer in police firing in the coastal district of Cox’s Bazar.
After Major (retd) Sinha Md Rashed Khan was killed in police firing on July 31, the Bangladesh Police removed over 1,300 officials from Cox’s Bazar in the biggest reshuffle in police in the country’s history.
No fewer than 588 people were killed during the government's anti-narcotics crackdown between May 2018 and August 25 this year, according to Human Rights Forum Bangladesh (HRFB), a coalition of 20 human rights and development organizations.
From January to August 25 this year, some 210 people became victims of "gunfights," it added.
Dhaka Tribune tried to reach Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal and RAB Director Gen Chowdhury Abdullah Al-Mamun over phone for a comment several times, but neither could be reached.
When contacted, RAB Media Wing Director Lt Col Ashik Billah, refuted the allegation of extrajudicial killings against the elite force.
“RAB is not linked to extrajudicial killings. The unexpected incidents that take place [during raids] are the result of fire exchange between the teams carrying out the operation and armed criminal gangs,” he said.