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Lift sanctions against RAB

Dhaka requests Washington

  • Diplomatic Correspondent
  • 3 January, 2022 12:00 AM
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Lift sanctions against RAB

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Bangladesh has requested the United States to lift its sanctions against Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and seven of its current and former top officials in consideration of their contributions to curbing terrorism and militancy in the South Asian country.

Dhaka has made the request in a letter written to US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken.

In the letter, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen has requested the US authorities to reconsider its decision to impose sanctions.

He has highly praised the role of RAB in curbing terrorism, militancy and extremism in Bangladesh.

Momen has conveyed New-Year greetings to his US counterpart Blinken and put up other issues.

The letter was sent to Bangladesh Embassy in Washington DC on December 31 and the embassy is scheduled to hand it over to Blinken's office, a senior official of the Foreign Ministry told the Daily Sun on Sunday.

"You have alleged that there have been 600 enforced disappearances in Bangladesh in the last 10 years, for which RAB is responsible. Almost a thousand people are killed in your country every year. No one deems them as 'forced disappearances. Those are deemed as 'in the line of duty'. When something like that happens in our country, newspapers deem it as 'extrajudicial killing'. Both are extrajudicial killing," Momen remarked.

He made the remarks when he was briefing media on the letter he wrote to his US counterpart Blinken, requesting him to reconsider the sanctions.

The foreign minister also said the US and Bangladesh have 50 years of strong relationship.

"We have various dialogues with the US. So, the sanction was unexpected. I said RAB is a very credible organisation. They fight drug trafficking, human trafficking and terrorism -- issues that are also of US concerns," he added.

"RAB is a credible organisation. Because of RAB, criminal activities in the country have decreased, so have drug-related cases and human trafficking, which also fall in line with the US' goal. Hence we are surprised by the move. We think there is scope for reexamination against the allegations," he further said.

Referring to the imposition of sanctions imposed on December 10 in 2021, the Bangladesh Foreign Minister said there is a scope for discussion on the allegations based on which the sanction was imposed.

“This is vitally important that we begin to work on a priority basis to find ways and means to waive sanctions,” Momen wrote in his letter sent on December 24 where he had referred the candid discussions he had with Blinken that gave Bangladesh the hope that the issue would be resolved ‘quickly with due seriousness’.

The Bangladesh foreign minister updated the US Secretary of State, sharing Bangladesh’s position on democracy, freedom of speech and human rights, minority and labour rights issues in his letter apart from touching upon sanctions issue broadly, said a Foreign Ministry official.

The Bangladesh foreign minister said they are confident that the continuation of sincere and candid dialogues between the two friendly countries would help advance the bilateral relations on the basis of mutual respect and benefits.

Bangladesh remains convinced that the US would continue to be a trusted and contributing partner in our journey towards emerging as a knowledge-based, tech-savvy and developed nation.

Over the years, Momen said RAB has emerged as the most efficient law enforcement agency of the government that has been at the forefront of combating terrorism, drug trafficking, human trafficking and other transnational crimes.

RAB's crucial role in quelling crimes has generated much confidence among the citizens. RAB has achieved public confidence as it delivers and is not corrupt, and at the same time, as excesses of abuse have dramatically reduced over the last decade, he said.

Notwithstanding the sanctions on the RAB and its officials, the government of Bangladesh would continue to maintain its 'zero tolerance' policy to combat militancy, terrorism, violence against women, drug trafficking and attempts to disrupt religious harmony in the country, Momen highlighted in his letter to his US counterpart.

"The competence and experience of the RAB will remain relevant in dealing with issues that we consider threat to our national and regional security," Momen said.

"Our government remains open to sharing experience, revisiting some aspects of the US and UK trained RAB's rules of engagement and their training on human rights in handling the crimes."

Momen has thanked Blinken profusely for his telephone call on December 15, 2021 noting that frank and open discussions like that always help overcome the shared challenges and add further momentum to consolidate the bilateral relations.

The United States as the largest democracy in the world serves as a source of encouragement to the people of Bangladesh as far as governance and institution-building are concerned, Momen mentioned.

Momen reiterated that the sanctions on RAB were unexpected and the sudden announcement came to Bangladesh as a "sheer surprise", especially at a time, when the two friendly nations are set to celebrate the five decades of ever-growing partnership.

"Again, while the Government of Bangladesh has always shown its readiness to deal with specific allegations against the RAB members, it does not see merit in bringing the entire unit under sanctions of the US Department of Treasury," he added.

Clearly, Momen said, all these issues need to be carefully reexamined as such decision might have been influenced by unverified or unsubstantiated allegations of command responsibility rather than by facts and ground realities.

Some foreign-funded NGOs remain active in misguiding Bangladesh's friends and partners deliberately by propagating concocted, presumptive and distorted narratives against our government and its machineries to pursue their vested interests, Momen mentioned in his letter.

Some human -rights organisations, instead of reporting the fact truthfully which is the cardinal principle they should be guided by, fabricate or distort the fact, according to the letter.

The matters that have been cited for imposing sanctions have remained under active discussions, including under the framework of the regular institutional dialogues between the two sides.

"This is evident that, mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we could not make optimum use of the existing dialogue mechanisms for free flow of information," Momen said and drew attention of Secretary Blinken's attention to the Country Report on Terrorism 2020 recently published by the US Department of State.

In the report, Bangladesh fared quite well with only three minor terrorist occurrences and with no terrorism related death. "This achievement can be attributed to the relentless efforts made by the security agencies in Bangladesh, mainly by RAB," he mentioned.