Washington correspondent :: Senator Patrick Joseph Leahy of Vermont has issued a strong statement on State-Sponsored Criminality in Bangladesh in the US Senate on the first session of 115th Congress held on 23 October 2017. He also announced withdrawing his support for further US assistance for law enforcement agencies of Bangladesh.
In his statement, Senator Leahy expressed concern about the “enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, unfair trials, extrajudicial executions, and other flagrant violations of the rule of law by the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed and particularly by the Rapid Action Battalion, RAB”.
Regrettably, all the inquiries made by the Senator have been responded to by Bangladeshi officials with “blanket denials, obfuscation, and even falsehoods”. Given the systematic and constant violations of the rule of law in Bangladesh and the impunity of the security officers responsible for these abuses, Senator Leahy has described Prime Minister Wajed’s government “as one that condones state-sponsored criminality”.
On behalf of his statement, Senator Leah highlighted from the Bangladesh part of the latest Country Reports on Human Rights of the State Department.
He stated, “Human rights groups and media reported that multiple disappearances and kidnappings continued, some committed by security services. The government made limited efforts to prevent or investigate such acts. The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances contacted the government on March 9 concerning the ‘reportedly alarming rise of the number of cases of enforced disappearances in the country’ and had 34 outstanding cases under review as of May 18, but the working group did not receive a response. Following alleged disappearances, security forces released some individuals without charge, arrested some, some were found dead, and others were never found”.
The latest US State Department report on tortures from law enforcement agencies in Bangladesh also mentioned, “Although the constitution and law prohibit torture and other cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment, local and international human rights organizations and the media reported security forces, including RAB, intelligence services, and police, employed torture and physical and psychological abuse during arrests and interrogations. Security forces reportedly used torture to gather information from alleged militants although members of political opposition parties claimed that security forces also targeted activists within their parties. Security forces reportedly used threats, beatings, kneecappings, and electric shock, and law enforcement officers sometimes committed rapes and other sexual abuses. Two prominent human rights organisations stated that security forces tortured eight persons to death in the first nine months of the year”.
The statement highlights the arrest of seven senior representatives of the opposition political party Jamaat-e-Islami in Dhaka last week. This type of conduct, which Senator Leahy describes as a threat to “democracy itself”, could lead to an increase in extremism.
Consequently, the Senator echoed those inquiries upon the Government of Bangladesh to respond to calls regarding dozens of cases of disappearances and to permanently dismantle the RAB, and publicly announced that he would not support further U.S. assistance for law enforcement agencies “until the necessary steps are taken”.
The full statement is available here.