US Congressman Meeks against ‘wholesale’ sanctions on Bangladesh; supports targeted action against security authorities


Dhaka: Gregory W. Meeks, the chairman of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, on Saturday supported the Biden administration’s targeted sanction on an elite security agency in Bangladesh over alleged human rights issues last year, but said the situation did not warrant “major “ Measures against the whole country.

The U.S. Department of State and Treasury issued separate sanctions on December 10, 2021 against Bangladesh’s elite Crime Prevention Battalion (RAB) and seven of its current and former top or senior officials over allegations of serious human rights violations.

I believe sanctions can be most useful when they are well targeted and do not believe sweeping sanctions on Bangladesh are warranted at this time, Meeks, a Democrat, said in a statement by the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Meeks said, “I remain supportive of strengthening US-Bangladesh ties and look forward to working to address human rights and democracy challenges in the country, including ensuring that the country’s next elections in 2023 are free.” and are fair.”

In addition to regular police, RAB recruits personnel from the army, navy and air force, while Benazir Ahmed, Bangladesh’s acting police chief, was also one of the men named on the list while previously leading the elite unit.

The US simultaneously banned two officials from entering the United States and possibly even had their US assets confiscated.

However, the US decision sparked a sharp reaction in Dhaka, as the government criticized the sanctions and called for a new review.

“We are surprised by the step. We believe there is scope for a re-examination of the allegations,” Secretary of State AK Abdul Momen wrote in a letter to his US counterpart Antony Blinken.

He defended RAB, adding: “RAB is a credible organization. Because of RAB, criminal activity in the country has decreased, as have drug cases and human trafficking, which is also in line with the US goal.”

Human rights groups and critics welcomed the US move to ensure accountability of security agencies, while media reports say no major extrajudicial killings have taken place since the sanction was lifted.

Most extrajudicial killings have previously been cited as a crossfire in the series of encounters with criminal gangs as law enforcement fought in self-defense.

“Widespread allegations of gross human rights abuses in Bangladesh by RAB as part of the Bangladeshi government’s drug war threaten US national security interests by undermining the rule of law and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as the economic prosperity of the Bangladeshi people,” the US communicated to the Ministry of Finance.

It also cited allegations by NGOs that RAB and other Bangladeshi law enforcement agencies were responsible for more than 600 enforced disappearances since 2009, nearly 600 extrajudicial killings since 2018, and torture, and some reports suggest these incidents were directed against members of opposition parties, journalists and Human rights activists were addressed”.

The Foreign Ministry announced travel bans on police incumbent and former RAB chief Ahmed and Miftah Uddin Ahmed, a military lieutenant colonel and former commander of RAB Unit 7.

Both were targeted for their “participation in the extrajudicial killing of the coastal town of Teknaf councillor, Ekramul Haque, in the coastal Cox’s Bazar district of Bangladesh” in May 2018.

However, some of the cases have been referred to justice, while a court in a small coastal town in Cox’s Bazar earlier this week sentenced two police officers to death for their direct involvement in the extrajudicial killing of a retired army officer.

The two police inspectors made an unsuccessful attempt to stigmatize ex-Military Major Sinha Mohammad Rashed as a drug dealer while he was posing as a documentary filmmaker and protesting police activities.

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