General

US sanctions on RAB may have far-reaching impact: BNP

BNP on Wednesday feared that the US sanctions on Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and its seven current and former top officials may have a negative impact on the deployment of peacekeepers from Bangladesh in UN peacekeeping missions.

“As Bangladesh has been identified as a big human rights violator by a superpower through the sanctions, it may influence the deployment in the UN peacekeeping missions in the future. It may also have a negative impact on our defence forces and law enforcers,” said party secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir.

Speaking at a press conference at BNP Chairperson’s Gulshan office, he also said the sanctions on one of the major law enforcement agencies of the country that exports RMG and other products, manpower and security service will have far-reaching impacts.

“It’ll also send out a wrong message to the world about our country and citizens which may disrupt foreign investment, economic assistance, and day-to-day cooperation. In particular, the image of Bangladesh will be dented severely to the international organisations, including the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and to the peace-loving countries,” the BNP leader opined.

He said there is no scope to deny that the US sanctions on allegations of ‘grave human rights violations are strong messages from the global community to the current “anti-mass” and “anti-humanitarian” regime that the culture of impunity cannot continue in a democratic country.

“Such human rights are violated only under the rule of an undemocratic and authoritarian government…BNP thinks the government must shoulder all the responsibilities for the US sanctions on RAB. They (gov) are responsible for unlawfully using the law enforcement agencies to cement their power,” the BNP leader said.

He turned down the ruling party leader’s allegations that the BNP has hired lobbyists to impose the sanctions on the RAB and its officials, saying the government is now trying to shift the blame onto others after being identified as a human rights violator.

Fakhrul said there is no reason for the country’s people to be confused with the ruling party leaders’ such comments. “We don’t run RAB. It’s the government that runs RAB and instructs them to carry out different acts. We’ve nothing to do here.”

He alleged that the Awami League government has forced the RAB to be a part of various anti-law cultures to perpetuate its undemocratic rule. “No institution of Bangladesh can be held responsible for such a functioning of a political government.”

The BNP leader, however, said those who have already played a role in introducing various forms of extra-judicial culture in order to protect the power of an “illegitimate” government must be brought to justice.

“As the government employees, the officials of police and other military and civilian forces of the state should be held accountable. It should not be forgotten that the Awami League is fully responsible for the US sanctions,” he said.

Sanctions “actually on govt”

Fakhrul said the US sanctions were extremely embarrassing and worrying, but such a move was inevitable.

“The current government has been using the law enforcers in carrying out extrajudicial killings for almost a decade and reports on it were published by the US and different other countries and organisations. But such crimes have been encouraged by repeatedly rejecting the reports by Bangladesh. In fact, the US sanctions are the result of the government’s denial of extrajudicial killings,” he observed.

The BNP leader said the government has used the law enforcement agencies, including RAB, nakedly to continue the culture of election without voting and looting votes at the night before the voting day. “So, the government is responsible for the allegations raised against RAB, and the sanctions against RAB are tantamount to sanctions on the current government.”

Position on dialogue over EC not clear

Sought his comment about President Abdul Hamid’s talks with registered political parties on the reconstitution of the Election Commission (EC), Fakhrul said they do not know anything about it.

Asked whether they will join the talks if they get an invitation, he parried the question saying they will talk about it later.

“The accountability to people is hampered at every step in a country that lacks democracy and which is now existing everywhere now in Bangladesh,” the BNP leader observed.

Under the circumstances, he said, it is now imperative to clear the way for holding a credible national election under a neutral government for establishing people’s right to vote.

Asked whether the US sanctions will affect the next national election, Fakhrul said it will happen if the election is held under a neutral government in a fair and credible manner.

The United States on Friday imposed human rights-related sanctions on Benzir Ahmed, current Inspector General of the Bangladesh Police and former Director General of Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and six other individuals on the occasion of International Human Rights Day.

The US Department of State announced visa restrictions on Benazir Ahmed, which it says, due to his “involvement in gross violations of human rights” making him ineligible for entry into the United States.

RAB as an entity, Benzir Ahmed, and six other officials were designated by the Department of the Treasury under the Global Magnitsky sanctions programme in connection with serious human rights abuse, said the US Department of State.

Source: United News of Bangladesh