Skip to main content

Bangladesh 'rights violations': US softens stance, fears increased clout of China, India

By Tilottama Rani Charulata* 

In December 2021, in addition to the Rapid Action Battalion (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 US. RAB as an institution was also canceled the support it was getting from the US and its allies. At the same time, those under the ban have been notified of confiscation of assets held abroad.
The anti-crime and anti-terrorism unit of the Bangladesh Police, RAB is the elite force consisting of members of the Bangladesh Army, Bangladesh Police, Bangladesh Navy, Bangladesh Air Force, Border Guard Bangladesh, Bangladesh Civil Service and Bangladesh Ansar, and has been criticized by rights groups for its use of extrajudicial killings and is accused of forced disappearances.
The government of Bangladesh has been insisting about lifting the ban on RAB, but the US had till recently refused to respond. This despite the fact that the US had supported RAB's anti-terrorist activities after its inception in 2014. 
Yet it was banned, with analysts blaming it on intensive public relations by Bangladeshi communities living in the US lobbying with senators and congressmen and campaigns by various international human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
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 'targetted sanctions' against RAB's senior commanders.
After the imposition of sanctions, Bangladesh protested as unreasonable sanctions of the US and said that they would stand by their position. However, there are signs that the US will soften its stance.
On January 15 in Dhaka, after discussions and bilateral meetings with Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen and State Minister Shahriar Alam, 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 said, the US has softened its position on Bangladesh for its own interests. The reason they say is that the US has supported all activities of the RAB, which is under US sanctions, including training and various assistance. Yet, the fact is, Lu did not make any specific comment regarding the withdrawal of sanctions on RAB.
"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," Lu said during the press briefing. This has led to the expectation that the US sanctions on RAB will be lifted soon.
The fact is, during the formation of RAB, the involvement of the US and the United Kingdom was mentioned by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. AK Abdul Momen had said, "When the RAB was created, it was created with the advice of the US 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.
There have been parallels: Chile's Pinochet or Argentina's military dictator Jorge Vidal had to face trial for human rights violations. But it was the US that incited Pinochet and Vidal and trained their law enforcement forces. Not without reason, analysts call such behavior of the US a double standard.
The US 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 behaviour 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 US to soften the tone on the issue of human rights in Bangladesh. They say, depending on the geopolitics, the US adopts different foreign policy strategies in different countries of the world. Analysts believe that the US 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 US 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 US was very silent at that time. International analysts believe that the US 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 US 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 neighbours of opposite religions.
The US is watching all this at a time when 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.
---
*Independent researcher interested in the Bangladesh and Rohingya refugee affairs. She is currently living in Canada

Comments

TRENDING

Vaccine nationalism? Covaxin isn't safe either, perhaps it's worse: Experts

By Rajiv Shah  I was a little awestruck: The news had already spread that Astrazeneca – whose Indian variant Covishield was delivered to nearly 80% of Indian vaccine recipients during the Covid-19 era – has been withdrawn by the manufacturers following the admission by its UK pharma giant that its Covid-19 vector-based vaccine in “rare” instances cause TTS, or “thrombocytopenia thrombosis syndrome”, which lead to the blood to clump and form clots. The vaccine reportedly led to at least 81 deaths in the UK.

'Scientifically flawed': 22 examples of the failure of vaccine passports

By Vratesh Srivastava*   Vaccine passports were introduced in late 2021 in a number of places across the world, with the primary objective of curtailing community spread and inducing "vaccine hesitant" people to get vaccinated, ostensibly to ensure herd immunity. The case for vaccine passports was scientifically flawed and ethically questionable.

'Misleading' ads: Are our celebrities and public figures acting responsibly?

By Deepika* It is imperative for celebrities and public figures to act responsibly while endorsing a consumer product, the Supreme Court said as it recently clamped down on misleading advertisements.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Magnetic, stunning, Protima Bedi 'exposed' malice of sexual repression in society

By Harsh Thakor*  Protima Bedi was born to a baniya businessman and a Bengali mother as Protima Gupta in Delhi in 1949. Her father was a small-time trader, who was thrown out of his family for marrying a dark Bengali women. The theme of her early life was to rebel against traditional bondage. It was extraordinary how Protima underwent a metamorphosis from a conventional convent-educated girl into a freak. On October 12th was her 75th birthday; earlier this year, on August 18th it was her 25th death anniversary.

Palm oil industry deceptively using geenwashing to market products

By Athena*  Corporate hypocrisy is a masterclass in manipulation that mostly remains undetected by consumers and citizens. Companies often boast about their environmental and social responsibilities. Yet their actions betray these promises, creating a chasm between their public image and the grim on-the-ground reality. This duplicity and severely erodes public trust and undermines the strong foundations of our society.

'Fake encounter': 12 Adivasis killed being dubbed Maoists, says FACAM

Counterview Desk   The civil rights network* Forum Against Corporatization and Militarization (FACAM), even as condemn what it has called "fake encounter" of 12 Adivasi villagers in Gangaloor, has taken strong exception to they being presented by the authorities as Maoists.

Mired in controversy, India's polio jab programme 'led to suffering, misery'

By Vratesh Srivastava*  Following the 1988 World Health Assembly declaration to eradicate polio by the year 2000, to which India was a signatory, India ran intensive pulse polio immunization campaigns since 1995. After 19 years, in 2014, polio was declared officially eradicated in India. India was formally acknowledged by WHO as being free of polio.

No compensation to family, reluctance to file FIR: Manual scavengers' death

By Arun Khote, Sanjeev Kumar*  Recently, there have been four instances of horrifying deaths of sewer/septic tank workers in Uttar Pradesh. On 2 May, 2024, Shobran Yadav, 56, and his son Sushil Yadav, 28, died from suffocation while cleaning a sewer line in Lucknow’s Wazirganj area. In another incident on 3 May 2024, two workers Nooni Mandal, 36 and Kokan Mandal aka Tapan Mandal, 40 were killed while cleaning the septic tank in a house in Noida, Sector 26. The two workers were residents of Malda district of West Bengal and lived in the slum area of Noida Sector 9. 

India 'not keen' on legally binding global treaty to reduce plastic production

By Rajiv Shah  Even as offering lip-service to the United Nations Environment Agency (UNEA) for the need to curb plastic production, the Government of India appears reluctant in reducing the production of plastic. A senior participant at the UNEP’s fourth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-4), which took place in Ottawa in April last week, told a plastics pollution seminar that India, along with China and Russia, did not want any legally binding agreement for curbing plastic pollution.