April 25, 2022
DHAKA – Unless concrete actions are taken and accountability is ensured, there is no scope for lifting the sanctions on Rab, said US Ambassador Peter Haas at a discussion yesterday.
“We want to see a Rab which is capable of combatting terrorism but which is also capable of respecting basic human rights,” he said at a seminar on US-Bangladesh relations.
Just prior to his remark, the Rab Director General Chowdhury Abdullah Al-Mamun spoke about how the force in 2011 established an internal enquiry cell with US cooperation to ensure accountability of Rab personnel.
Under the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Programme, 147 Rab personnel were trained on basic interviewing skills and human rights, he told the discussion organisaed by Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS).
The trained individuals are working to ensure transparency and uphold human rights, the Rab DG added.
Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen commented that it was former US Ambassador James F Moriarty who called Rab the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) of Bangladesh.
“Rab has since then done an excellent job at combatting terrorism. Maybe we have to look at it more closely to see how accountability can be increased … but this is a great institution,” said Momen.
Ambassador Haas also said, “We will continue to work with Bangladesh to combat violent terrorism, combat transnational crime and enhance security. We will continue our support to the transnational crime police and to the anti-terrorism unit and the specialised police units in Chattogram, Sylhet, and Rajshahi.
“The USA is not perfect. We have embarked on our own democratic renewal. This journey ensures tackling our own issues with police accountability. We are inviting other countries in the world to make similar commitments.”
He announced that the US would be an impartial observer of the upcoming parliamentary election. “The USA will not pick a side in the elections. Our view is simple: the Bangladeshi people have a democratic process that allows them to choose their government.
“Holding an election consistent with international standards is not just about ballot day. Truly fair elections involve creating a space where civic discourse can take place, where journalists can investigate without fear…”
He welcomed the law minister’s commitment to reform the Digital Security Act to prevent abuse of the law.
The ambassador also spoke about the need for signing two defence treaties called ACSA and GSOMIA between Bangladesh and the US. GSOMIA would set the ground rule for exchanging sensitive data about military operations, said Haas, while ACSA will allow exchange of fuel and food.
These treaties are not like the “broad, vague defence agreement that Bangladesh signed with China in 2002,” he said, referring to the “China-Bangladesh Defence Cooperation Agreement” which covers military training and defence production.
“The DFC [US International Development Finance Corporation] has a $4 billion active portfolio in South Asia across multiple sectors including clean energy, healthcare, agriculture. The DFC cannot operate in Bangladesh because of a lack of labour rights.”
Kazi Imtiaz Hossain, chairman of BIISS led the event, while former diplomats Humayun Kabir and Tariq A. Karim, former election commissioner Brig Gen (retd) M Sakhawat Hossain, BIIS Director-General Maj Gen Mohammad Masudur Rahman and Dhaka University professor Ruksana Kibria spoke.