death squad
In a recent letter to the Bangladeshi government, Human Rights Watch urged the country to abolish its paramilitary group, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB). Deemed by HRW as a “death squad” after evidence that RAB officers were responsible for the murder of seven men this past spring, HRW expressed adamancy on the issue, calling for immediate action by the Bangladeshi government. Advising the government to make RAB a completely civilian force until its abolishment, the group’s recommendations were not met well by Bangladeshi officials.

In response to the letter, the Bangladeshi Cabinet Committee on Law and Order discussed the issue during its meeting. When asked by reporters about the outcome, Committee Chief Amu claimed, “Whether we’ll disband RAB or not is entirely an internal issue. It doesn’t concern them [HRW].” Adamant that the government will make its own decision separate from the rights group’s personal stance, the paramilitary group–which was formed in just 2004–is unlikely to be going anywhere anytime soon, according to Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

The claims made by HRW are a result of evidence that linked at least three RAB officials to the death of seven civilian men this past spring. The three guilty officials, who are now in police custody, have admitted their link to the killings and have been stripped of their badges by the government.

Yet high officials in RAB are still being questioned, and it is highly unlikely that all guilty parties have admitted to their involvement in the scheme.

“The Bangladeshi government has promised to reform RAB and hold it accountable, but it has utterly failed,” said Brad Adams, Asia director for Human Rights Watch. “RAB is beyond reform and should swiftly be abolished.”

Responsible for at least 800 killings in the past 10 years and numerous acts of torture and mistreatment, human rights groups around the world have supported HRW’s statement against the paramilitary group in hopes that the Bangladeshi government will listen.

– Nick Magnanti

Sources: Human Rights Watch, BD News 24, Prothom Alo
Photo: Progress Bangladesh