To what extent have the US sanctions on RAB been justified?
Recently, the United States imposed sanctions on the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), Bangladesh’s elite paramilitary force, and seven of its current and former officials, accusing of human rights violations through disappearances. forced and extrajudicial executions. This human rights sanction means that the RAB will not be allowed to hold assets in the United States or engage in any financial transaction with any American body.
It’s time to find out whether such sanctions are meant to protect human rights or have geopolitical reach and whether RAB really deserves to be sanctioned or banned.
After the September 11 attacks, the United States declared a “war on terrorism”, an ongoing international military campaign targeting extremist groups and terrorist organizations. The United States is also providing financial and non-financial assistance to various countries and their respective security forces to counter growing extremism around the world. For example, the Bureau of Counterterrorism alone has provided counterterrorism training to over 90,000 staff in law enforcement agencies in 154 partner countries since 1983. This in fact reflects the desire of the United States to counter evolving terrorist threats and prevent the spread of violent extremism.
In Bangladesh, the RAB has been the most effective security force in the fight against extremism, apprehending many prominent terrorists. This elite force arrested many extremists such as Bangla Bhai (the military commander of Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh who was affiliated with Al-Qaeda), Mufti Hannan (the head of a radical Islamist organization called Harkat-ul-Jihad) etc. Colonel Abul Kalam Azad, former head of the RAB Intelligence Wing, was killed in a bomb explosion during a raid on an extremist hideout in Sylhet. This is how the RAB works hand in hand with other Bangladesh security forces to counter extremism and activism, even at the cost of the lives of its officials.
From the above analysis, it is clear that the United States has a clear intention to prevent violent extremism in all its forms in every nook and cranny. And, in Bangladesh, the RAB has worked to implement the government’s “zero tolerance policy” against terrorism that fits perfectly with the US agenda on preventing extremism. Now, a common question might arise by citing that as the RAB and the United States have worked on the same ground, then why did the United States impose sanctions? Is it just the issue of human rights or is it part of the geopolitical game?
The Lancet reported that approximately 32,000 people were killed by American police from 1980 to 2019. It is sad but true that police murders in the United States are mainly inspired by racism because in the United States black people Americans die 3.5 times more than whites. Americans. The report also showed that about 55% of police violence in the United States is either intentionally mislabeled, officially ignored or even not recorded. As the champion of democracy, the United States, at home fails to protect human rights, ordinary people might then wonder how justified the recent American sanction against the RAB is?
RAB, Bangladesh’s elite anti-crime and anti-terrorism force, was formed in 2004 as the Rapid Action Team (RAT). It consists of members of the Bangladesh Police, Bangladesh Army, Bangladesh Air Force, Bangladesh Navy, Bangladesh Border Guards and Bangladesh Ansar. The RAB is not a permanent force but a specialized unit which has mainly gained fame for its role in the fight against terrorism and extremism. What RAB has done, is doing and will do in the future is not the responsibility or merit of specific organizations from which it receives membership, but rather a combined effort of several Bangladesh forces. Citing some insane incidents, the United States should not label the RAB as a human rights violator. In addition, it is also important to keep in mind that an organization should not be held responsible for the actions of any of its leaders. Obviously, if a member of an organization does something wrong, the responsibility falls on the shoulder of the organization concerned. But that does not definitely mean that the organization was created for wrongdoing or that the organization itself supports or defends wrongdoing.
Some RAB officials have been criticized for extrajudicial killings, crossfire and torture, for example seven killings of Narayanganj, which can in no way be justified. The RAB authority should accept any constructive criticism in a positive manner and endeavor to resolve these issues. At the same time, we have to keep in mind that this is a totally internal matter in Bangladesh which should not be hampered by any other state. If the United States really cares about human rights violations by the RAB, then instead of imposing a sanction, the United States should work more closely with the RAB, guiding and equipping them to do so. are walking the path they believe can protect human rights and prevent extremism simultaneously. .
The writer is a consultant to a Bangladeshi NGO.