US Ambassador Peter Haas has said his country’s policy on Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion has not changed and the sanctions against the force will remain in place “until there is both accountability and reform”.
“No, there's been no change in our policy. The sanctions are still in place. The sanctions will remain in place until there is both accountability and reform,” he said in a meeting organised by the Centre for Governance Studies in Dhaka on Thursday.
“We have said this privately, we've said this publicly and I said earlier that the sanctions are not intended to punish anyone. They are intended to change behaviour. And so we're looking for accountability for past incidents and we're looking for reforms so that they don't happen again.”
On Dec 10, Human Rights Day, the US imposed sanctions on RAB officials, citing ‘serious human rights violations’ by the force. The officials who face the sanctions include police chief Benazir Ahmed, a former head of the RAB and currently the outgoing inspector general of police. RAB’s outgoing Director General Chowdhury Abdullah Al-Mamun, who is taking over as police chief, was is on the sanctions list.
US diplomats indicated that despite several rounds of talks between the foreign ministers of the two countries, the sanctions are not going to be withdrawn soon.
Haas, however, now sees improvement in RAB’s action. “One of the things that I do have to say is that we've noticed there is a remarkable decline in reported abuses being conducted by the Rapid Action Battalion since we imposed sanctions last year. That is a very good thing. We'd like to see none occur or no reports, but it is a very good signal that the number has decreased and some people say dramatically.
Asked whether the US was considering additional sanctions on the RAB, the ambassador said, “I said this earlier: we never preview what additional sanctions may be under consideration or that we might be thinking about imposing.”