US Ambassador to Bangladesh Earl R Miller was summoned by Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen on Saturday to convey Dhaka’s “discontent” over the designated sanctions imposed by the US Departments of Treasury and of State on some of the present and former officials of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB).
Foreign Secretary Momen expressed Bangladesh’s disappointment that the decision was taken "unilaterally" by the US administration without any prior consultation with the government of Bangladesh.
He flagged that the issues that were cited for imposing the designated sanctions remained under active discussions, including under the framework of the regular institutional dialogues between the two sides, and yet the US decision came without any prior intimation.
The Foreign Secretary regretted that the US decided to undermine an agency of the government that had been on the forefront of combating terrorism, drug trafficking and other heinous transnational crimes that were considered to be shared priorities with successive US administrations.
The Foreign Secretary regretted that the allegations made against RAB over certain specific incidents had been explained, along with information on the corresponding justice and accountability measures undertaken, to not just to the US administration but also to a number of UN human rights mechanisms on multiple occasions.
Masud Momen stated that the US decision appeared to have been based more on unverified or unsubstantiated allegations of command responsibility than on the facts involved in connection with certain specific incidents that had taken place at the local level.
The Foreign Secretary said the decision targeting the Bangladesh officials was made in tandem with those concerning certain countries that stand alleged to have committed serious international crimes, i.e. 'textbook example of ethnic cleansing’, by the UN and other concerned international bodies.
He emphasized that the government of Bangladesh remained committed to upholding the rule of law and human rights, and maintained a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to any wrongdoings or aberrations by its law enforcement agencies.
Foreign Secretary Momen stressed that all uniformed services in Bangladesh followed a set of legal and administrative procedures to address any allegation of wrongdoing against any of their members, and that RAB was no exception in this regard.
Foreign Secretary Momen underscored the need for pursuing the pathway of dialogue, engagement and collaboration, instead of resorting to ‘naming and shaming’ that has proven to be a self-defeating exercise.
He highlighted that the observance of the 50th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between the two friendly countries next year should open up further avenues to enhance the breadth and dimensions of the existing partnership.
Ambassador Miller took note of the concerns raised by the Government of Bangladesh, and assured of conveying the same to his Capital, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
He concurred that the excellent multifaceted relations between two countries could be further deepened through established consultation mechanisms and high level visits.
Ambassador Miller also expressed the US government’s willingness to remain closely engaged with the government of Bangladesh in the coming days on the issues of mutual interest.
The United States on Friday imposed human rights-related sanctions on Benzir Ahmed, current Inspector General of the Bangladesh Police and former Director General of Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and six other individuals on the occasion of International Human Rights Day.
The US Department of State announced visa restrictions on Benazir Ahmed, which it says, due to his “involvement in gross violations of human rights” making him ineligible for entry into the United States.
RAB as an entity, Benzir Ahmed, and six other officials were designated by the Department of the Treasury under the Global Magnitsky sanctions programme in connection with serious human rights abuse, said the US Department of State.