Following the recent visit of the US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu to Bangladesh, political opponents of ruling Awami League government, under the banner of rights activists and relatives of victims of alleged human rights violations have intensified their anti-Bangladesh activities with the nefarious goal of getting dozens of officials of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), an elite anti-terrorism force, which comprises members of Bangladesh Armed Forces and Bangladesh Police under fresher sanctions, despite the fact that Mr. Donald Lu on January 15, 2023 said that the United States has not implemented new sanctions on RAB because the elite force had made good progress in the area of human rights, by reducing extrajudicial killings in the country.
Immediately after the visit of Donald Lu, those rights activists and relatives of alleged human rights violations have come with fresher allegations stating RAB had been “involved in thousands of cases of enforces disappearance and extrajudicial killing and said they were disappointed the United States has not implemented new sanctions on other Bangladeshi security agencies, including the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence, Special Branch of Bangladesh Police, Detective Branch, Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime unit of Bangladesh Police and more former and present RAB officers.
According to Voice of America, Meenakshi Ganguly, the South Asia director of Human Rights Watch said that while it was true that gross violations by the RAB dropped briefly immediately after the sanctions were announced, that only goes to show that when there is accountability, the security forces can be reined in.
“The fact that security forces abuses started again is because of denials and excuses by the political leaders who failed to deliver a robust effort to end impunity. The US and other governments should be concerned by reports of intimidation of activists and victim families after the sanctions were announced, and not hesitate to act if abuses persist”, Ganguly told VOA.
Amanda Strayer, supervising staff attorney for accountability at the US-based rights group Human Rights First, noted the RAB and several of its officers were sanctioned under the Global Magnitsky Act, which authorizes sanctions against human rights violators for widespread and longstanding patterns of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and torture under the Global Magnitsky program.
“The US government should make very clear that there can be no discussion about lifting sanctions until Bangladesh implements serious reforms to prevent these kinds of horrific violence, to hold the sanctioned officers and all other abusers accountable, and to cease the ongoing threats and harassment against civil society and victims’ families”, Strayer told VOA.
The US government risks undermining the impact of its own Global Magnitsky sanctions when it touts a temporary decline in violence early last year as ‘tremendous progress’, absent real reform and accountability, she said.
“If repressive governments sense they can easily hoodwink the US into backing down from Global Magnitsky sanctions without meaningful change, then human rights sanctions will lose all their bite”, she said.
Meanwhile, sitting in Washington DC, an individual named Mushfiqul Fazal Ansarey with active collaboration of former US diplomat William B Milam has been making frantic bids in influencing US authorities in imposing sanctions on dozens of individuals, including politicians, civil-military officers and members of Bangladesh intelligence agencies and RAB by December this year. While Ansarey and Milam are jointly funded by Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat-e-Islami, Mushfiqul Fazal Ansarey has managed press accreditation cards in the White House and the United Nations by falsely claiming as the “US Correspondent” of a website named “Just News” although such entity does not have any existence in Bangladesh.
It may be mentioned here that since 2009, a secularist government under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been vigorously confronting terrorism and religious extremism. Now in 2024, as Bangladesh is schedule to hold another general election, Islamists are trying to come to power through undemocratic ways. With this agenda, they have been making frantic bids and spending heavily in misleading the Western policymakers, including the US authorities.
In a recent exclusive interview, when Ambassador John Bolton, former National Security Advisor and a key figure in the Republican Party was asked if he thinks, for a Muslim majority country like Bangladesh with 180 million population, shall any Islamist government in Dhaka pose serious threat to the region, he said: “Well, you know, I don’t want to be accused of interfering in Bangladesh’s election, but I would just say this and I think it’s applicable to all of our countries, the rise of religious extremism we’ve seen has been conducive to terrorism. That’s threaten innocent people all over the world. And the terrorism from Islamist extremists, over the past three decades, has caused the most damage – has killed the most people in Muslim countries. So certainly, the United States has been attacked by Islamist terrorists on 9/11. We all know that. But what people don’t see is the accumulation of the terrible effects of terrorism in the Muslim world as well. So, I just, I wouldn’t give any political advice to the people of Bangladesh, but I would say the idea that the answers to the current problems that confront us is found in that kind of extremism is the wrong road to go down”.
When asked, in this case if he thinks that, the international community including the United States should cooperate with any government which is committed in combating Islamic terrorism, Ambassador John Bolton said: “Yeah, I think it’s very important that the US be consistent. There’s nothing sort of good terrorism and the bad terrorism. And you know, we want to encourage everybody to live under the rule of law and everybody is entitled to due Process according to their own legal systems but there’s no upside for the United States and encouraging, any political faction or government that’s engaged in or supporting terrorist activity. I mean, I think our strength in this area comes from consistency. Nobody’s perfect in that either, but I think we should be on the watch to avoid inconsistency”.