Published: 08:35 AM, 05 April 2022 Last Update: 09:45 PM, 05 April 2022
The United States put emphasis on ensuring accountability of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) for violating human rights while carrying out their duties. US Secretary of State Anthony J Blinken said this during a bilateral meeting with Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen in Washington.
The meeting was held on Monday (local time) marking the 50 years of diplomatic ties between the two countries.
The U in December last year imposed sanctions on RAB and several of its current and former officials on allegations of violating human rights. The Bangladesh side has been holding discussions at different level with the US side for the withdrawal of the sanctions.
Speaking to newspersons, Momen said, “We raised the issue (withdrawal of sanctions imposed on RAB). Maybe RAB did commit excesses at times while doing their job, but they have an in-built system to ensure accountability.”
He further said several RAB officials served different jail terms, including 12 who faced death sentences, for their misdeeds. But because of the US sanctions, young officers will feel discouraged to serve in RAB. That’s why we requested the US Secretary of State to reconsider the sanctions.
The foreign minister further said he told Blinken that he would be very happy if the sanctions against RAB are withdrawn. “The US Secretary of State said withdrawing the sanction is matter of following a process. I said, of course. We have taken all the required steps in this regard. Then the US Secretary of State said, we observed that no incident of extrajudicial killing took place in the last four months.”
The US State Department published speeches of two foreign ministers before the beginning of the meeting. The US Secretary of State expressed the wish to take the partnership with Bangladesh further ahead while Bangladesh Foreign Minister Momen asked for more US investment.
After the meeting, Momen said they also discussed about labour rights and working environment in Bangladesh. “We informed the US of the advancements Bangladesh made in these sectors. We said we have been developing labour rights and working environment after consulting the ILO (International Labour Organisation) and European Union (EU).”
Despite the advancements achieved, we could hold a series of dialogues or follow a “complete roadmap” to jointly work with the US to get rid of the weaknesses we still have in those sectors.
The foreign minister also said he asked the US, Bangladesh’s biggest trading partner with the largest accumulated investment in the country, to invest in other sectors including information and communication technology. “Most of the US investment has been in the energy sector. Maybe it is time to look beyond that.”
The meeting also discussed about opening direct air travel between the two countries, deportation of Bangabandhu’s killer Rashed Chowdhury, IPS (Indo-Pacific Strategy), regional and internal politics and Rohingya issue, he added.
After the meeting between Bangladesh Foreign Minister and the US Secretary of State, spokesperson Ned Price released a press note on the US State Department’s website. It said the two diplomats discussed the tremendous economic potential of the two countries.
They also discussed the collaboration made by the two countries over the last half century including growing people-to-people ties with vibrant Fulbright exchange.
They also highlighted ongoing cooperation to address the climate crisis, meet the needs of Rohingya victims of genocide, and promote regional security through UN peacekeeping operations.
Antony Blinken reaffirmed the importance of protecting human rights, the rule of law, and freedom of religion as the basis for safe and prosperous democratic societies.