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US suspends RAB training

Gross rights violation alleged

Staff Correspondent

The United states has informed Bangladesh that it will not continue with training programmes and assistance for the Rapid Action Battalion citing a gross violation of human rights by the battalion personnel.
In an official letter to the inspector general of police, the United States said that it had determined that ‘individual members and units of the Rapid Action Battalion are ineligible for US training and assistance as a result of gross violation of human rights which have been committed by RAB members.’
The inspector general of police, Hassan Mahmood Khandkar, declined comments.
The battalion’s additional director general Colonel Ziaul Ahsan, however, said that they were aware of the issue but were yet to receive the copy of the document.
He said that the battalion was composed of well-trained and highly professional people.
‘The RAB members are competent mentally and physically and foreign training and assistance are, therefore, not required for the force,’ Ziaul told New Age.
Copies of the letter signed by the chargé-d’affaires at the US embassy in Dhaka, Jon F Donilowiez, on February 3 were also sent to the home secretary and the director general of the battalion, an elite police force police.
The home ministry’s additional secretary (political) Kamal Uddin Ahmed said that the ministry was yet to receive any such documents.
‘The US government might have some reservations… But we are yet to receive any such letter that it would suspend its training programmes for RAB members.’
The US authorities wanted that the country should take effective steps to bring members responsible for such rights violation to justice for the continuity of the US-funded training programmes.
‘Henceforth, we request that the government of Bangladesh refrain from nominating RAB members for US-funded training opportunities until such time as US restrictions are lifted,’ the letter said.
‘As noted above, this can only occur once there has been a determination that gross violations of human rights by RAB have ceased and the government of Bangladesh takes sufficient corrective action against the perpetrators of past abuses,’ it said.
At least 760 people were killed extrajudicially by the battalion till August 2013 since the elite force was set up in 2004, according to statistics available with rights watchdog Odhikar. In addition, 31 people were tortured to death by RAB during the period.
The US government funds training programmes for foreign security forces under the Foreign Assistance Act 1961.
A battalion official said that they had bee informed of the US stand through the foreign ministry in regard to their training programmes.
The extrajudicial killings by the battalion that began during the BNP-led alliance government continued during the Awami League’s tenure in office although the the current ruling party in its election manifesto in 2008 pledged steps to end such killings.
The Awami League, however, did not mention anything about the extrajudicial killing in its election manifesto for the national elections that took place on January 5.

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