Chowdhury Abdullah Al-Mamun, the outgoing director-general of the Rapid Action Battalion, says members of the unit only apply force when the situation demands that they do so amid a marked decline in reports of so-called crossfire killings or shootouts with alleged criminals.
Al-Mamun spoke to reporters at the RAB's media centre in Karwan Bazar on Wednesday ahead of his departure from the force after heading it for almost two and a half years.
He is set to replace his predecessor at RAB, Benazir Ahmed, as the inspector general of police. M Khurshid Hossain, an additional inspector general of police, is poised to take over from Al-Mamun as the RAB chief.
Incidents of crossfire have cast a shadow over the RAB since its inception in 2004. In December 2021, the United States imposed sanctions on the RAB, including its former chief Benazir and six other top officials in connection with “serious human rights abuse”.
However, Al-Mamun played down the impact of US sanctions on the way in which the force operates. "Bangabandhu said the country's police are also its citizens. Why would we stand against our own people? When we come under attack by drug, arms or human traffickers, we take measures within our legal remit.
“We only use force when necessary. We take action in keeping with what the situation demands and in accordance with the laws of the land."
The RAB follows the legal process in carrying out its duties, but criminals are generally unfazed by the obstacles facing them, according to him. "Criminals want to commit crimes with all their might even when we stand in their way."
Addressing the controversial issue of crossfire killings, he said the RAB plays a limited role in the law-enforcement process. “We [RAB] are not there when a crime is committed. Police are the first to respond. Then the magistrate comes and an investigation is conducted. The body is taken to the morgue and an experienced physician performs the autopsy.
"A case is filed at the police station and then a trial is held in open court. In view of the arguments of both parties, the court gives a reasoned verdict. My question is how much of a role does the RAB play in all this? We do our job with transparency.”
Highlighting the casualties incurred by the RAB in confrontations with criminals, he said, "Our tasks are challenging, which is why many of my colleagues lost their jobs. I believe that members of the RAB will continue to carry out their duties bravely in the future."
Asked whether the RAB's campaign against drugs has failed, he said, "The war we are fighting against drugs is a global one. This war is ongoing, not only here, but all over the world."
Most of the criminals behind bars were incarcerated for narcotics-related crimes and that is down to the commitment of law enforcement agencies to carrying out the prime minister's zero-tolerance policy against drugs, according to him.
When asked about the role of the police in suppressing political opposition, Al-Mamun said that during elections, law enforcement agencies operate in line with the Election Commission's instructions.
"Various complaints are made. If there is a specific complaint against someone, let us know and we will take action," he said, "We have been able to maintain law and order in the past and we are determined to do it in the future."