“RAB is a great human rights activist,” Col AKM Azad, additional director general of the force, said in a message on Saturday.
The US State Department and the Treasury Department announced the sanctions on the RAB, its former chief Benazir Ahmed and six other officials on Friday, making the individuals ineligible for entry into the US.
RAB spokesman Khandaker Al Moin faced questions from reporters on the US sanctions at a news conference on Saturday.
Moin also said the force ensures, not violates, human rights, and it has “set an example of humanity in the world” by allowing 421 militants and pirates to surrender and return to normal life. “Isn’t it humanity? RAB always shows compassion.”
To ensure human rights, 28 members of the 9,000-strong force have sacrificed their lives, while more than 1,000 others have been disabled and over 2,000 have been injured, according to him. “I doubt if any other force in the world sacrificed so much.”
Moin said the RAB did not receive any official message from the US over the sanctions. The government will act if the US sends its decisions formally.
Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen earlier summoned US Ambassador to Bangladesh Earl Miller to convey Dhaka’s discontent over the sanctions.
Bangladesh is disappointed that the decision was taken without consulting the government on the matter first, Momen said.
RAB, a joint task force founded in 2004, earned some plaudits in suppressing militancy, but deaths of suspects in alleged gunfights, especially during anti-drugs operations, marred its image. Its mandate includes internal security, intelligence gathering related to criminal activities, and government-directed investigations.
NGOs have alleged that RAB and other Bangladeshi law enforcement are responsible for more than 600 disappearances since 2009, nearly 600 extrajudicial killings since 2018, and torture. Some reports suggest these incidents target opposition party members, journalists, and human rights activists.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan on Friday defended the action of the law-enforcement agencies as “self-defence”.
The minister claimed all “extrajudicial killings” are investigated by a magistrate and officials face legal action if they are found to be negligent.
RAB spokesman Moin also mentioned “self-defence” as the reason behind the deaths of suspects, claiming that no members of the force are spared if they are found responsible.