Sri Lanka, Cambodia And Bangladesh Under US Sanctions: What Are Limits Of US Action? – OpEd


The couple and their family members will be deemed ineligible to travel to the United States. The United States has imposed sanctions on two Sri Lankan government officials for alleged human rights abuses. The couple and their family members will be deemed ineligible to travel to the United States. The two accused Sri Lankan officials from the United States are Navy officer Chandana Hettiarachchi and former Army Sergeant Sunil Ratnayake.

Chandana Hettiarachchi was involved in human rights abuses against at least eight Tamil civilians between 2006 and 2009, the US government said in a statement on Friday. Sunil Ratnayake, on the other hand, is accused of extrajudicially killing at least eight civilians in a Tamil village in 2000. He was also convicted in the country’s courts. The court sentenced him to death. However, President Gotabaya pardoned him last year.

The U.S. state department in 2020 has also sanctioned the current Sri Lankan Army chief Gen. Shavendra Silva on allegations of war crimes committed during the final phase of the armed conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009.

The Sri Lankan Army denies the charge, claiming it as a humanitarian operation to rid the Tamils of LTTE’s control. On the other hands, The United States has recently imposed travel bans on officials from China, Belarus, North Korea, Myanmar and Bangladesh for alleged human rights abuses. 

On the other hand, the US on December 08, imposed an arms embargo on Cambodia, citing concerns about human rights and corruption in the southeast Asian nation as well as China’s activities there.

In November, Washington sanctioned two Cambodian officials for corruption allegations linked to a US-funded naval base. But Prime Minister of Cambodia Hun Sen has repeatedly denied his country would host the Chinese military at the base. Cambodia’s longtime leader is one of China’s closest partners in Asia, and his government has been allegedly dismantling facilities at the Ream base that were built partly with American money and hosted to US exercises. The Sihanoukville-base on the Gulf of Thailand has been a running sore in US-Cambodia relations in recent years, with Washington suspecting it is being converted for use by China. But Cambodia denies the US allegations. 

When Bangladesh is working to ensure the security for the region including Indian North Eastern part from terrorism, extremism, separatism etc., a recent inappropriate decision by US can hamper the situation. When Bangladesh’s law enforcement and security agencies are working to curb the extremism, terrorism, separatism to bring peace in the region, The US has imposed sanctions on Bangladesh high officials at this time which is very inappropriate. The contribution of Bangladesh’s security and law enforcement agencies are well known to the world. Bangladesh ensured the region including Indian North Eastern part from terrorism, extremism, separatism etc. Bangladesh security and law enforcement agencies has established an example in the whole world to deal or counter with separatism, terrorism and extremism (ULFA terrorists and separatists, Holy Artisan incidents, JMB terrorists for the region). On the occasion of International Human Rights Day, the US Treasury Department has announced the imposition of sanctions on the assets of 15 individuals and 10 organizations in various countries for serious human rights violations. The United States has also imposed sanctions on Bangladesh’s Special Police Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and six of its officers.

Extrajudicial killings are taking place even in many countries but we do not see any such action against those countries. Why not those countries? Because US needs those countries to serve its vested interest in Afghanistan. But Why Bangladesh, Sri Lanka? They have chosen a few countries to show that they want to work with democracy. It is clear that their biased policies to some countries totally are baseless. They targeted a peaceful country in the South Asia like Bangladesh, Bangladesh is a role model of counter terrorism, extremism and separatism. They targeted small country like Sri Lanka. 

Bangladesh has expressed dissatisfaction over the US sanctions. The US ambassador to Dhaka, Earl R. Miller, had been summoned to the State Department today to express his dissatisfaction. Million’s people go missing in the United States each year, but the US government does not know how.  The US police kill thousands of people every year in the line of duty. The United States should be informed. So, the sanction of this America on other countries isn’t appropriate. In fact, the countries that develop, the governments that do-good work are often attacked. If you do good then the problem is. In the case of Bangladesh, Security forces may fire several times to save lives when terrorists fire their weapons. There might have been some separatist incidents. But what a US punishment in reaction to those! The US might have very ill motives behind this.  The US wants to sign two defence agreements with Bangladesh as the latter is seeking to buy advanced equipment from the US as part of its goal to modernize the military by 2030.  But Bangladesh didn’t show interest to sign the ‘General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA)’ and the ‘Acquisition Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA)’ agreement with USA. It may be an issue for Bangladesh.

The sanction of the US is very problematic in the case of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, Cambodia in this regard., Myanmar and North Korea cases may be totally different.  It is the bad universal habit of the USA to counter the rising power. It imposed sanctions upon anyone at any time anywhere in the name of serving human rights worldwide when it can understand that its interest isn’t serving. (Iran, Venezuela, Iraq, etc.)

Let’s talk about the human rights situation in the USA. recent 918 people have been shot and killed by police in the USA in the past year. This isn’t my data. This is the data of the ‘Washington Post.’ Protests over the 2020 Black Lives Matter, revived by the extrajudicial killing of George Floyd by three Minneapolis police officers, indicate the largest protest movement in U.S. history.The US should look at the human rights situation in its territory first.

On February 26 this year, UN human rights experts called on the US government to end police torture and racial discrimination in the United States. According to reports of Western media outlets such as The Guardian, BBC, there are serious violations of human rights in the USA. 

An article in the Lancet titled ‘Fatal police violence by race and state in the USA, 1980–2019: a network meta-regression on October 2, 2021, shows the horrific pictures of human rights violation in the USA. The report stated that between 1980 and 2018, many people died in police custody in the United States. Fifty-five percent of these deaths were unreported or miscellaneous, meaning the exact cause of death was not disclosed. Although only 10 percent of the population is black, the death rate of blacks in police custody is three and a half times that of whites.

Can the US answer the question of Abu Ghraib prison, Guantánamo Bay prison abuses? The world hasn’t forgotten the incidents of the USA’s ‘Enhanced interrogation and waterboarding’ cases?

The world has not forgotten the tragic scene of a black man being strangled to death by the police on the streets of the United States last year. Not only that, when Palestinian children hurled stones at the Israelis who attacked their homes, Israeli forces fired indiscriminately at them. The United States has not imposed sanctions on the Israelis. On the contrary, if a country proposes condemnation of this human rights violation at the United Nations, the United States vetoes it. So, their sanction is motivated, one-sided, and ineffective.

According to Human Rights Report 2021, Covid-19’s grossly disproportionate impact on black, brown, and indigenous peoples, associated with chronic inequalities in health, education, and economic conditions, has highlighted the lasting effects of past clearly racist laws and policies and the continuing obstacles to equality. The series of police killings of George Floyd and other police killings of blacks in May gave rise to widespread and extensively peaceful protests, which in many cases were met with brutality by local and federal law enforcement agents.

This is the human rights situation in the USA. The self-proclaimed promoter of world peace, human rights, democracy worldwide, the US always speaks about the human rights violation in their targeted country.  There may have been an ill motive behind this. In the name of protection of human rights in many countries, the US tries to serve its vested interest. We know the incident of the Iraq war, the war in Afghanistan, etc. The US authority should look at the human rights situation in its country first. The United States is involved in human rights abuses, including killings, disappearances, and abductions, not just in its own country. 

The democratic forces of the world are well aware of the fact that they are now talking about strengthening the “world democracy” and holding a conference to regain the lost ground after failing to establish a single world order.

The United States, meanwhile, claims that an average of 1,100 people are victims of law enforcement killings each year in the United States. Even in their country, six lakh people go missing every year. 

Former United States Senator Robert Reich tweeted a few days ago. He said there were 984 extrajudicial killings in the United States in 2020. According to various US media reports, at least 6,700 people have been extrajudicially killed by law enforcement in the United States since 2015. That means an average of 1,000 people die without trial each year in the United States.

For example, the United States has sanctioned seven people, including a Bangladeshi police chief and a RAB DG, in the United States. Allegedly, that was extrajudicial killing. The number of extrajudicial killings in the United States is higher each year than in Bangladesh. Moreover, there are several countries in South Asia where extrajudicial killings are taking place. 

It is clear that their biased policies to some countries totally are baseless.  When Bangladesh Security agencies starts to curb extremism, terrorism in the region, the US has imposed sanctions upon Bangladesh this time. It is a biased, one-sided step of the US. 

On the other hand, it is very disappointing to see that Sri Lanka, Bangladesh has been put in the line with states like North Korea or Myanmar which significantly stands different, both in terms of human rights records and political standing on the global, regional and domestic scale. North Korea and Myanmar should be another issue? Thus, it is clear to say that the recent US sanctions upon Bangladesh, Sri Lanka are very problematic.

*Jubeda Chowdhury is a freelance writer with a Master’s Degree in International Relations from the University of Dhaka.

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