Tue. May 24th, 2022

Human rights organizations that abuse the Bangladesh Rapid Action Battalion (RMB) called on the United Nations to ban the unit’s members from its peacekeeping operations.

In a letter to Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix released on Thursday, 12 human rights groups expressed concern “that individuals who served with [RAB] is sent on UN missions, despite consistent and credible evidence of abuse, including extrajudicial killings, torture and forced disappearances by members of this unit since its creation in 2004 ″.

Kerry Kennedy, president of the Robert F Kennedy Human Rights Organization, said “the evidence is clear; now is the time for the UN to draw a line. “

Kennedy, whose organization is one of the signatories to the letter, called on the world body to implement the United Nations’ 2012 policy on the human rights screening of United Nations personnel.

“If Secretary-General Guterres is serious about ending human rights abuses by UN peacekeepers, he will ensure that units with proven records of ill-treatment such as the Rapid Action Battalion are excluded from deployment,” she said in a statement.

The Department of Peace Operations has yet to provide a formal response to the letter sent on November 8.

Allegations of human rights violations

RMB was created in 2004 to combat extremism and serious crime in the country of 169 million people, but is accused by legal groups of gross human rights violations, including the presentation of shootings to kill alleged criminals.

Bangladesh is one of the top troops and police contributors to UN peacekeeping.

In 2020, it was the highest contributor and deployed 6,731 staff in uniform to various missions.

RMB is legally accountable to the Interior Ministry, but the military has significant influence and control over its activities, with military officers occupying many of the most senior positions in it.

NGOs have claimed that RMB and other Bangladeshi law enforcement have been responsible for nearly 600 extrajudicial killings since 2018.

Last month, RMB was designated by the United States as a “foreign entity responsible for or complicit in, or directly or indirectly involved in, serious human rights abuses” under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.

The Bangladeshi government has denied the allegations and called on the US ambassador protest sanctions against its top security officials after seven people, including the country’s national police chief.

The UN Working Group on Forced and Involuntary Disappearances expressed concern that “members of the RMB would be eligible to take part in UN peacekeeping operations, without any prior investigation into their alleged involvement in human rights abuses or a thorough selection process” .

The group also said that officers involved in or willing to tolerate abuse were “apparently promoted and rewarded within the Bangladeshi security and law enforcement forces”.

In the letter, the organizations expressed concern that “systematic screening is only applied at higher ranks” and called on the UN to ensure that all uniformed personnel are subjected to systematic scrutiny of their individual human rights record by independent Bangladeshi National Evaluations Human Rights Commission.

“The NHRC can not be objective and factual in carrying out its role in the screening process, taking into account ongoing reports on its politicization,” the human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, wrote in the joint letter.

“The government has persisted in denying abuse and refusing to investigate allegations or hold criminals accountable.”

Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister Masud Bin Momen has RAB defends, describing it as a “government agency that has been at the forefront of combating terrorism, drug trafficking and other heinous transnational crimes that have been viewed as shared priorities with successive U.S. administrations.”

“If bringing a criminal under the law is a violation of human rights, then we have no objection to violating these human rights in the interest of the country,” he said.

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