Sanctioned force RAB is US, UK’s creation, says Bangladesh FM Momen

The United States and Britain created the Rapid Action Battalion by providing it with training, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen has said in his efforts to defend the sanctioned force.

“The US and the UK created the RAB. They trained the force. The US taught them rules and engagement – how to behave with people, how to interrogate,” the minister said at an event in Sunamganj on Friday.

The RAB is a joint task force founded in 2004. Its mandate includes internal security, intelligence gathering related to criminal activities, and government-directed investigations.

The RAB and other Bangladeshi law-enforcing agencies are criticised for numerous “extrajudicial” killings and “enforced disappearances”.

The US State Department and the Treasury Department in December announced human rights-related sanctions on the RAB and seven of its current and former top officials.

A dozen human-rights groups have recently demanded a ban on members of the elite police unit in the United Nations peacekeeping missions.

“The US State Department has acknowledged that terrorism has declined here due to the RAB. The foreigners have ganged up on the RAB after being fed one-sided information,” Momen said.

“Law-enforcing agencies cause some deaths in all the countries. Some have occurred in Bangladesh as well. The number had been high in the past, but it has fallen. We still conduct judicial investigation into these incidents,” he said.

The foreign minister hailed the RAB as a “skilled, efficient” force that is “free from corruption”. “This is why they have earned the people’s trust.

“Terrorist activities have declined because of them. No terror activities have been carried out here since the Holey Artisan attack [2016 attack on the Dhaka café]. It has been possible because of the RAB.”

“Some people, who like terrorism and drugs, have complained about the RAB to the foreigners.”

He added the RAB may have weaknesses in its rules of engagement, but in that case its members should be given fresh training, not sanctions.

He also said the government would provide the US with correct information about the RAB as part of efforts to have the sanctions rolled back.