(New York) – The Bangladesh government should disband the paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed. Until it is disbanded, RAB should be made into an entirely civilian force by withdrawing all military officers and soldiers from its membership.
Evidence that RAB officers were responsible for the contract killings of seven men in April 2014, allegedly on behalf of a ruling party member, have provoked outrage in Bangladesh and are yet another example of how the unit has operated as a death squad, Human Rights Watch said.
“The Bangladeshi government has promised to reform RAB and hold it accountable, but it has utterly failed,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The lack of accountability has allowed the Rapid Action Battalion to run amok. RAB is beyond reform and should swiftly be abolished.”
The unit was established in 2004 by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). Over the last decade, successive governments led by the BNP, the subsequent military-backed caretaker regime, and since 2009, the Awami League, have allowed the force to operate with impunity, leading to serious and systematic abuses. RAB has been responsible for numerous acts of torture and other ill-treatment, arbitrary arrests, and approximately 800 killings over the last 10 years.