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US senators call for ban on top RAB commanders in Bangladesh

Easterntimes, Special Correspondent, Dhaka, 28 October:  Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Tuesday was joined by Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) in leading eight of their Senate colleagues in calling on the Trump administration to impose sanctions on senior commanders of Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), which has reportedly killed more than 400 people extrajudicially since 2015.

In a bipartisan letter addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, the Senators urged the administration to impose targeted sanctions on senior RAB commanders under applicable authorities, including the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and Section 7031(c) of the FY 2020 Further Consolidated Appropriations Act.

“Extrajudicial killings by the RAB have reportedly spiked since the Government of Bangladesh began its ‘war on drugs’ in the months ahead of the December 2018 elections,” the Senators wrote. “UN experts including the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary execution wrote that the ‘war on drugs’ ‘appears to be a deliberate policy of extrajudicial killings’ and urged the Government to end it and respect the rule of law and human rights. However, the Government has failed to end these abuses and the RAB continues to commit extrajudicial killings with impunity.”

The Senators also expressed concerns that the RAB has been credibly implicated in human rights abuses beyond these extrajudicial killings.

“In addition to extrajudicial killings, UN experts, journalists, and human rights groups have documented cases of the RAB committing enforced disappearances and widespread torture, including the 2019 abduction and suspected torture by the RAB of three men whose employer had a dispute with a high-ranking Government of Bangladesh official,” the Senators added. “These cases illustrate a pattern of gross human rights violations for which the Rapid Action Battalion and its senior leadership have faced no consequences.”

Joining Ranking Member Menendez and Senator Young in signing the letter were Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

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