Bangladesh dismisses US sanctions


Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) personnel check identity documents of people traveling in a three-wheeler vehicle at a road checkpoint in Shamlapur area, one of the common routes used for smuggling Rohingya refugees on Oct 7, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

Bangladesh has dismissed sanctions imposed by the United States on officials of the country's Rapid Action Battalion over alleged rights abuses, with the foreign minister saying the move against the police unit was "very unfortunate" and "not fact-based".

"I would expect from (the) USA more solid fact-based response," AK Abdul Momen said on Saturday, adding that Dhaka would review its position if it determined that the US move arose from "geopolitics", the national news agency BSS said.

He made the remarks after the Foreign Ministry summoned the US Ambassador in Bangladesh Earl R. Miller to convey the country's "discontent" over the development.

In response to a question on whether the sanctions could strain Bangladesh-US relations, Momen said "I don't think so", but added that it "depends on the United States".

The allegations of gross rights violations by the anti-crime elite police unit were not "based on facts" and the battalion was a disciplined institution that instead "has been securing human rights for the people of Bangladesh", he said.

Unilateral move

He expressed Bangladesh's disappointment that the decision was taken unilaterally by the US administration without any prior consultation with Bangladesh, the Foreign Ministry said on Saturday.

Momen stressed that the Bangladeshi government was committed to upholding the rule of law and human rights and maintained a "zero tolerance" approach to any wrongdoings by its law enforcement agencies.

He underscored the need for a pathway of dialogue, engagement and collaboration, instead of the US resorting to "naming and shaming", which has proved to be a self-defeating exercise.

On Friday the US Treasury Department and the State Department imposed the sanctions on seven serving and former officials of the elite force, including incumbent Bangladeshi Inspector General of Police Benazir Ahmed. He had commanded the force as its director-general.

Momen said the US claimed that the brigade had killed 600 people in 10 years, but "we have no information who were killed". The US decision should have been backed by facts, he said.

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