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UK government refuses to sanction Bangladesh ‘death squad’

The UK government has failed to match U.S. sanctions against a ‘death squad’ in Bangladesh named the ‘Rapid Action Battalion’ (RAB) for its alleged involvement in forced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.


Although the US and UK received the same evidence regarding the RAB, only the US decided to impose sanctions. Toby Cadman, Joint Head of Chambers and a member of the team that submitted requests for sanctions against the RAB to the US and UK governments, said that it came as a surprise that sanctions were not imposed by the UK, in line with its ally the US.


The US has imposed sanctions on the RAB as an organisation and seven current and former high-ranking officials from the unit under the Global Magnitsky Act, citing evidence of alleged involvement in at least 600 forced disappearances since 2009 and more than 600 extrajudicial killings since 2018.


The Bangladesh government has denied those accusations, saying the deaths were the result of so-called “crossfires” – not summary executions – with the “criminal” being killed when he got caught in the crossfire between a gang and the RAB.


Under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which was created to penalise human rights abusers by freezing their assets, US companies and individuals are prohibited from doing business with those sanctioned.


According to Mr Cadman, requests for sanctions such as this do not always come to fruition, but that there is usually a reason presented: “It generally relates to a lack of an evidential basis and, of course, if there was something lacking it would be normal for the FCDO to seek further information or clarification”. In this case, no clarifications or explanations were provided by the UK Foreign Office. Reed more in Al Jazeera article here:

Human rights groups accuse the RAB of involvement in extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances [File: Abir Abdullah/EPA]

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