The government of Bangladesh has failed to put a stop of extra-judicial killings and human rights violations perpetrated by an elite paramilitary force called Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), according to a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW).
HRW alleges that at least 200 people in Bangladesh have been murdered by RAB since the Awami League party took over the government in early 2009. Moreover, no one affiliated with RAB has been charged or brought to trial, HRW said.
RAB operatives, dressed in black and wearing bandanas, are a familiar sight on Bangladesh’s teeming urban streets. The elite squad was originally formed in 2004 to fight crime and Islamic terrorism.
The RAB was instrumental in arresting the top leaders of the country's most prominent Islamist militant group, the Jumatul Mujahideen Bangladesh.
However, human rights observers estimate that they have killed at least 700 people since that time – many for petty crimes and left-wing activism.
RAB is believed to comprise about 9,000 men.
HRW has called for the Bangladeshi government to either reform the RAB or disband it entirely.
After two years in office, the government has had more than enough time to take action to stop the RAB's murderous practices, said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
A death squad is roaming the streets of Bangladesh and the government does not appear to be doing anything to stop it. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina needs to act.
However, Dhaka has strenuously denied the accusations and said that police are only acting against criminal activities and that most of the deaths occur due to gun battles between lawmen and criminals.
In December of last year, Wikileaks had uncovered evidence that some RAB members were being trained by the U.K.
British officials in Dhaka confirmed those report, but claimed they were only being trained on interviewing techniques, investigations and the management of crime scenes.
A diplomatic cable dated May 2009 quoted the U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh James Moriarty, who wrote: The US and UK representatives reviewed our ongoing training to make the RAB a more transparent, accountable and human-rights compliant paramilitary force. The British have been training RAB for 18 months in areas such as investigative interviewing techniques and rules of engagement.
In another cable, Moriarty said it would be illegal for the US to offer anything other than human rights training to the RAB because of their alleged crimes and human rights abuses.