Bangladesh: No Need For Continuation Of US Sanctions On RAB – OpEd

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In December 2021, in addition to the RAB, the United States imposed sanctions on seven former and current officers of the force, alleging serious human rights violations. Benazir Ahmed and former RAB-7 commander Miftah Uddin Ahmed were banned from entering the United States. RAB as an institution was also canceled the support it was getting from the United States and its allies. At the same time, those under the ban have been notified of confiscation of assets held abroad.

After that, the government of Bangladesh talked about lifting the ban, but the United States did not respond. But here too, there is evidence of the US interests and the propaganda of the anti-government forces abroad. RAB was banned in December 2021 but its plot started in 2018.

The US has been supporting RAB’s anti-terrorist activities since its inception. But what has happened suddenly that the ban has to be given? According to various media reports, intensive public relations by anti-government Bangladeshi communities living in the United States with senators and congressmen and campaigns by various international human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, played an important role in establishing allegations of serious human rights violations against the RAB and changing US attitudes. And because of these activities, 10 US senators on October 27, 2020, in a letter written to then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Munchin, requested the imposition of ‘targeted sanctions’ against RAB’s senior commanders.

After the imposition of sanctions, Bangladesh also protested the unreasonable sanctions of the United States and said that they would stand by their position. The United States has softened its tone after a long year of controversy over the ban on RAB. On Sunday (January 15) in Dhaka, after discussions and bilateral meetings with Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen and State Minister Shahriar Alam, Lu praised the RAB in a joint press conference. Visiting US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Donald Lu praised the RAB’s efforts to reduce extrajudicial killings after a year of sanctions over allegations of human rights abuses.

Speaking to reporters at a joint press conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lu said that the Human Rights Watch report this week noted that the RAB had made outstanding progress. Mentioning this extraordinary work, he said that RAB will be able to fight terrorism and protect law and order by respecting human rights.

Analysts say that the United States has softened its position on Bangladesh for its own interests. The reason they say is that the United States has supported all activities of the RAB, which is under US sanctions, including training and various assistance. 

US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu has said that Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) has made “tremendous progress” in performing its duties while respecting human rights. 

However, he did not make any specific comment regarding the withdrawal of sanctions on RAB. On 10 December 2021, the US State Department imposed sanctions on RAB and seven of its former and current officials over human rights violations.

“We recognise this. This is amazing work. It shows that RAB is able to carry out its counterterrorism efforts and important functions while respecting human rights,” Donald Lu said during a press briefing at the foreign ministry on Sunday (15 January). 

Extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in Bangladesh dropped dramatically following the US sanctions against Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and some of its top commanders back in December 2021, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in its annual report. 

Therefore, the US sanctions on Rapid Action Battalion will be lifted soon as the US Assistant Secretary Donald Lu expressed his satisfaction over the force’s recent activities.

Not only that, during the formation of RAB, the involvement of the United States and the United Kingdom was mentioned by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. AK Abdul Momen said, “When the RAB was created, it was created with the advice of the United States and the United Kingdom.” Considering the situation of that time, those countries gave the concept of RAB. They gave equipment to the then government. RAB was initially launched because of them. Many people think that one of the objectives of Washington is to overcome the government of Bangladesh.

Chile’s Pinochet or Argentina’s military dictator Jorge Vidal have to face trial for human rights violations. But it was the United States that incited Pinochet and Vidal and trained their law enforcement forces. They also do the justice system. And so, the analysts call such behavior of the United States a double standard.

They say that the United States sometimes identifies a country as a terrorist and human rights violator because of its own interests. Sometimes, for their own sake, they label someone as a scapegoat of humanity. Their behavior is very old in the history of the world. However, the American leaders probably do not know what happens in the name of human rights in their own country. Who keeps count of how many robberies happen every day in just one New York City? How do they treat the black citizens of their country – who even raises the question?

Some people also see the geopolitical purpose of the United States to soften the tone on the issue of human rights in Bangladesh. They say, depending on the geopolitics, the United States adopts different foreign policy strategies in different countries of the world. Analysts believe that the United States has adopted a strategy to restore democracy, protect human rights and improve the law-and-order situation in Bangladesh. And in this case, the main target of the United States is China.

The Biden administration is eager to make Bangladesh sign the Aksa and GSOMIA agreements related to defense to prevent China. In the elections of 2008, 2014 and 2018, the opposition party claimed that the elections were not fair, but the United States was very silent at that time. International analysts believe that the United States is raising questions for its own interests, although it did not raise any questions about the law-and-order situation at that time.

They say that China’s continued presence in Bangladesh in the name of development cooperation is making the US worry about its security and dominance in the Indian Ocean region. And so, to stop China, Washington is trying to subjugate Bangladesh by raising the smoke of human rights violations. However, in the end, as Bangladesh remained steadfast in its position, the United States was forced to soften its tone.

Analysts say that in the reality of South Asia, as Bangladesh is geographically important, there has been a great improvement in the socio-economic conditions of Bangladesh in the last decade. Capacity has increased significantly. Bangladesh can now speak for itself in the eyes of superpowers. Besides, Bangladesh maintains very friendly diplomatic relations with India and China, two big neighbors of opposite religions. The United States is watching, this Bangladesh is not a Bangladesh to be afraid of; This Bangladesh is not a kneeling Bangladesh; This Bangladesh is Bangladesh with its head straight. As a result, after the ban, now the tone of flexibility in the throat of the Americans.

The world is no longer bound by a single power or a couple of big rings. The world is now a land of many powers. Even the old superpowers are now talking or being forced to talk about compromise.

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