HRW urges B'desh govt. to disband RAB

| Updated: Jan 21, 2017 15:08 IST

Dhaka [Bangladesh], Jan. 21 (ANI): Following the Narayanganj seven-murder verdict in which several members of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) were convicted, New York-based rights body the Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged the Bangladeshi government to take immediate steps to disband the elite force and replace it with a rights respecting force. A Narayanganj court on Monday sentenced 26 people, including 16 former RAB members, to death for their role in the seven-murder. Besides, nine other ex-RAB members were sentenced to different prison terms, reports the Daily Star. "While in opposition, the Awami League called for the disbanding of RAB. Before taking office in 2009, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said she would reform RAB. This has not happened, so it is time for the government to take immediate steps to disband RAB and replace it with a rights respecting force," said the HRW. The rights body said that for years, RAB has been deployed by successive governments not only to fight crime, but often as an "in-house death squad, leaving a string of extrajudicial killings -- often referred to as "crossfire" deaths, torture, disappearances, and arbitrary arrests in their wake." In a press statement on Thursday, lauding the prosecution of RAB members, the it said, "Yet it should not only happen when the victim is a ruling party member." It added that RAB officials have been "shielded" from prosecution by successive governments, some even justifying their crimes. Blaming the government for responsible for the situation, the rights organisation said the government has created "the climate of impunity". RAB is a mixed force of police and soldiers, the press statement said, adding that although it is formally led by a civilian officer, it is "the army that controls RAB". Involving trained-to-kill soldiers in law enforcement is inherently risky, but the police also have their own problems with abuse, the statement added. In recent years, members of the Detective Branch of police have also been responsible for "RAB-style serious human rights violations, including deliberately maiming suspects in custody by shooting them in the leg", the HRW mentioned. (ANI)