Cutting Extrajudicial Killings: US satisfied with Rab’s progress
Visiting US Assistant Secretary Donald Lu yesterday expressed satisfaction that Rab reduced extrajudicial killings since late 2021, when the US imposed sanctions on the force.
"We've had quite good discussions on Rab. If you've seen the statement this week by Human Rights Watch, they recognise and we recognise tremendous progress in the area of reducing extrajudicial killings by the Rab. This is amazing work," Lu told a joint press briefing at the foreign ministry.
"It shows that Rab is able to carry out its important counterterrorism and law enforcement functions while respecting human rights," added the US assistant secretary for South and Central Asia.
After a meeting with Lu over lunch at the Foreign Service Academy, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan was asked at a media briefing whether the sanctions on Rab would be lifted.
"Lifting of sanctions is a complex process. It may take some time," he said, quoting Lu as saying.
He added that Rab's progress should continue and the sanctions will be lifted in future.
There was no discussion on reforms of Rab, he added.
Lu met Prime Minister's Private Industry and Investment Adviser Salman F Rahman over breakfast at the latter's residence. He then met Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen and Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen. US Ambassador Peter Haas was present.
Lu later attended the lunch hosted by the foreign secretary and held meetings with the home minister, Law Minister Anisul Haq, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam, civil society and labour rights groups.
He arrived at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport on Saturday evening and left early today.
During the press briefing at the foreign ministry, he told reporters in Bangla that he travelled to Bangladesh to strengthen friendship at a time when the whole world was struggling for peace and justice.
Donald Lu said he had very honest and open discussions and reiterated the US commitment to democracy and human rights.
"We'll stand up for freedom of speech, freedom of expressions and we look forward to working very closely with our partner here in Bangladesh."
Foreign Minister Momen then told reporters he informed Lu that Rab stopped terrorism in the country and after 2017 there was no major incident of terrorism. Also, many Rab officers were demoted and sacked.
"Seven Rab men were given the capital punishment – information that the US did not have. However, there are exceptions.
"The DSA [Digital Security Act] is a very good law. But sometimes some people misused it. We're rectifying it."
The home minister at his press conference said Lu was happy that the government allowed the BNP rally on December 10 and observed that all political parties should have rights to do politics and assembly.
He told Lu that the government allows rallies that are peaceful and do not block the roads. "We intervene only if they destroy public property or block roads."
He also said that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina wants a free and fair poll and is working towards that end ahead of the national polls early next year.
On this issue, Foreign Minister Momen told Lu that the Awami League always believed in elections and always formed governments through ballots, not bullets.
"Bangladesh is a unique country where people fight for democracy, justice and human rights. Three million people sacrificed their lives … all people of the country cast their votes whereas in many countries fewer people can cast votes. Therefore, no one should have doubts about it," he said.
When Donald Lu drew attention to the allegations of irregularities in elections, Momen said the government has introduced photo ID to prevent fake voting, and transparent ballot boxes to prevent stuffing.
"We've formed a strong Election Commission, which has full authority on its budget. And it is very powerful. So, we hope that we'll hold a transparent and nice election."
Momen then told Lu that allegations of vote rigging were also raised in the US.
"No country is perfect. Your country is not perfect either."
LABOUR RIGHTS, GSP
Lu said labour rights is an important issue for trade relationships, for getting back the GSP facility and funds from the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC).
"I'm very confident we're going to make progress this year," he said.
The US suspended the Generalised System of Preferences for Bangladesh following the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013.
Lu said he was still waiting for the Congress to authorise it. Bangladesh will be the first country on the list to get the GSP back when the Congress authorises it, he added.
Momen said the US should invest in Bangladesh.
He sought US support in renewable energy and technical assistance for climate resilient infrastructure.
They also discussed defence and security cooperation.
Lu said he discussed the Indo-Pacific Strategy and the US's desire to put more resources and more attention to the region, including Bangladesh.
He appreciated Bangladesh's humanitarian gesture extended towards the Rohingya refugees.
Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association Chief Executive Syeda Rizwana Hasan said participatory election, overall election process, and Chittagong Hill Tracts issues were briefly discussed.
Awami League International Affairs Secretary Shammi Ahmed, Dhaka University teachers Prof Imtiaz Ahmed, Lailufar Yasmin, Delwar Hossain, among others, were present.