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No crossfire in 2 months since US sanctions on RAB


Jun 14, 2016

No crossfire in 2 months since US sanctions on RAB​

The number of deaths will remain low for the next few months because of the sanctions, claims former NHRC chairman


Dubbed as an elite police unit, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) is composed of members of the police, armed forces, and border guards, seconded to it from their respective units Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune
Tribune Report
February 10, 2022 1:36 AM

In two months since the US government imposed human rights-related sanctions on the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and seven of its top former and current officials, no incidents of extrajudicial killings, otherwise known as “crossfire” or “gunfights”, at the hands of law enforcement agencies have taken place in Bangladesh.

According to a former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the number of alleged gunfights would remain low in the coming months as the US sanction have a significant impact on the law enforcement agencies’ actions.

Dhaka Tribune found no media reports on alleged shootouts, gunfights or crossfire involving police or RAB between December 10 and on Wednesday.

On December 10 last year, the US Treasury Department had imposed the sanctions on RAB and its serving and former officials, including the force’s former director general Benazir Ahmed, under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, citing "serious human rights abuse relating to the officials’ tenure."

The same day, the State Department also imposed sanctions on Benazir and another RAB official.
The sanctions mean RAB will neither be allowed to own properties in the US nor engage in any financial transaction with US bodies or personnel until further notice.

According to Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) data, 80 alleged deaths by law enforcement agencies were reported in 2021. Out of these 80 deaths, RAB was involved in 30 alleged crossfire killings.

Significant impact

Former NHRC chairman Prof Mizanur Rahman told Dhaka Tribune that US sanctions against an elite paramilitary force like RAB have a significant impact on the government and the law enforcing agencies.

“I cannot say for sure if the decline of extrajudicial killings will continue for a long time, however, the past two months showed that extrajudicial killings will decline in the next few months or years,” he said.

The sanctions were imposed not just on RAB but also on its top officials and therefore the sanctions might have a direct impact on their family’s reputations as well, Prof Mizanur added.

“These sanctions might change the extrajudicial killing practices scenario by the law enforcing agencies drastically considering it came from the US,” he said.

According to data compiled by human rights organization Odhikar, a total of 2,644 people fell victim to extrajudicial killings by the law enforcement agencies from 2009 to 2021. Odhikar data shows that there were 107 extrajudicial killings in 2021.

In most cases of extrajudicial killings, the law enforcement agencies claim that they had to open fire as an act of retaliation or self defence as the “criminals” started shooting at them first.
The murder of retired Bangladesh Army Major Sinha Md Rashed Khan was one of the most talked-about extrajudicial killings in recent times.

On July 31, 2020, Sinha was shot dead by policemen at a checkpoint on the Cox's Bazar-Teknaf Marine Drive.

After his death, the police said they fired in self-defense when Sinha brandished a pistol at law enforcers after obstructing a search of his vehicle at the checkpoint at Shamlapur.

Minister plays down impact

State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam yesterday said that the measures will not have any impact on other areas either. “There’s no impact of the sanctions in other areas. I can tell that very confidently. There is also no possibility of US sanctions’ expansion,” he said, referring to their greater engagement with the US over the last month and trashed the rumours around.

On Saturday, while sharing views on the sanctions on RAB, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen had said that there would be more assault on the country in the next two years as the conspirators are still active

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