As security force commanders in Bangladesh remain implicated in grave human rights abuses including enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and torture, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed has offered them promotions and rewards instead of ensuring accountability.
On September 30, Chowdhury Abdullah Al-Mamun was promoted to Inspector General of Police, less than a year after he was sanctioned by the United States government for his command as director general of the notoriously abusive Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) from April 2020 until now, during a period when the RAB committed grave human rights abuses committed. The US also sanctioned the RAB itself as an entity “that is responsible for or complicit in, or has directly or indirectly engaged in, serious human rights abuse.”
Outgoing police chief Benazir Ahmed is also sanctioned by the US government, naming the abuses committed by RAB while he was director general from 2015 to 2019. During that time, officers under his command allegedly committed 136 reported extrajudicial executions and 10 enforced disappearances. While Ahmed faces travel restrictions to the US, the Bangladesh government made him part of an official delegation to a meeting at the United Nations in New York to bypass the ban.
When asked about calls from the US, the UN, and others to reform RAB, Al-Mamun made clear that business would continue as usual. “We are not doing anything for which we need to reform RAB,” he said. “So, there is no question of reformation.”
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina awarded Al-Mamun and another sanctioned RAB official, additional director general Colonel Khan Mohammad Azad, with prestigious police medals for their “bravery and service to the country.” In response to the announcement of US sanctions, deputy chief Azad said, “If bringing down a criminal under the law is a violation of human rights, then we have no objection to violating human rights in the interest of the country.”
These actions send the message to Bangladesh security forces that not only will the government ignore abuses, but it will reward them. But the US and other concerned governments see through the accolades and so should other Bangladeshi law enforcement officers. As US ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas said, “there is no scope for repeal of sanctions against the Rapid Action Battalion without concrete action and accountability.”