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European Parliament Member Asks EU


A European Parliament member has asked the European Union to impose sanctions against the Rapid Action Battalion, saying it has been involved in numerous extrajudicial killings and disappearances.

Parliament member Ivan Stefanec in a letter to Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, on January 20 said the human rights, freedom of speech, civil and political rights situation in Bangladesh is deteriorating.

He also cited the US sanctions against Rab and seven of its current and former officials.

"In view of the events mentioned above, I ask that you use the power you have to help enforce sanctions against the Rapid Action Battalion, Rab for short. I also ask you for help against the Bangladesh Police and the Government," Stefanec said.

The parliament member's office confirmed this in an email to The Daily Star, which has also obtained a copy of the letter.

Stefanec, also a member of the European Parliament Sub-committee on Human Rights, said the ruling party in Bangladesh often uses inhumane practices, which have also been reported by institutions. "These include manipulating election results or suppressing political dissent."

About US sanctions, he said the actions were taken due to "multiple extrajudicial executions over the years, specifically with reference to the killing of Akramul Haque, a municipality councilor in Teknaf, in May 2018".

Human rights organisations and several US Senate bodies have repeatedly called for sanctions against  Rab for years, he wrote to Borrell.

Stefanec said there is a lot of corruption in Bangladesh and that the government controls the police.

"Unfortunately, another alarming statistic is the number of missing Bangladesh citizens. The numbers are in the hundreds, just over 500. This number has been documented by a group of citizens.

"It is also sad that a significant number of the missing are found later, but unfortunately, without any signs of life. The UN is conducting an investigation into this," he said.

The European Parliament member said the UN and EU earlier criticised human rights abuses within Bangladesh, including Digital Security Act, which stifles free speech, criminalises online dissent, and violates international law.

He quoted the International Federation for Human Rights statement that violations have included extrajudicial killings, 1,134 of which took place between January 2018 and June 2021 and that torture has also been routinely used as a tool against political opponents as well as ordinary citizens.

He said Bangladesh will graduate out of the LDC in 2026 and outperformed its neighbouring countries in numerous benchmark areas.

"Unfortunately, the country's development is largely marked by human rights violations as well ascorruption...I must sadly note that democratic values have been suppressed since the ruling party took power. For example, the press faces fear. Political opponents are insulted and bullied.

"This situation is very serious and that is why I am asking for your help in re-establishing democracy," Stefanec said.