South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

Published in The Daily Star on July 21 ::

Human Rights Watch in an open letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today reiterated its demand to disband Rapid Action Battalion (Rab).

Until it is disbanded, Rab should be made into an entirely civilian force by withdrawing all military officers and soldiers from its membership, the New York-based rights organisation said.

“The Bangladeshi government has promised to reform Rab and hold it accountable, but it has utterly failed,” said HRW Asia director Brad Adams.

“The lack of accountability has allowed the Rapid Action Battalion to run amok. Rab is beyond reform and should swiftly be abolished,” he said.

Evidence that Rab officers were responsible for the contract killings of seven men in April 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, the rights body said.

The unit was established in 2004 by 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, the HRW claimed.