A dozen human rights organisations have urged the United Nations Department of Peace Operations to ban Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) from UN deployment.
They have made the call in a letter to UN Under-Secretary-General Jean-Pierre Lacroix, made public on Thursday, according to a Human Rights Watch news release.
It said the UN department has yet to provide a formal response to the letter which was sent privately over two months ago on November 8, 2021.
The organisations that signed the letter are: Amnesty International, Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), Asian Human Rights Commission, Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL), Capital Punishment Justice Project, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Human Rights Watch, International Federation for Human Rights, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, The Advocates for Human Rights, and World Organization Against Torture (OMCT).
The release claimed that UN human rights experts have also voiced concerns about allegations that members of the unit engaged in torture, enforced disappearances, and other human rights violations.
“If Secretary General Guterres is serious about ending human rights abuses by UN peacekeepers, he will ensure that units with proven records of abuse like the Rapid Action Battalion are excluded from deployment,” said Kerry Kennedy, president of Robert F Kennedy Human Rights.
“The evidence is clear; now it’s time for the UN to draw a line.”
On December 10, the United States government designated RAB as a “foreign entity that is responsible for or complicit in, or has directly or indirectly engaged in, serious human rights abuse,” under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.
Instead of taking steps toward reform, the Bangladesh government has responded to the announcement of US sanctions with denials and retaliation against human rights defenders and victims’ families, said the release.
The United States reportedly sanctioned seven current or former RAB officials, including the country’s police chief, Benazir Ahmed, who has a long history of employment with the UN.
“The deployment of members of the RAB in peacekeeping operations reinforces a message that grave human rights abuses will not preclude one from service under the UN flag and increases the chances of human rights abuses being committed in UN missions,” said Louis Charbonneau, United Nations director at Human Rights Watch.
“The UN should send a clear signal to host and troop-contributing countries that abusive units will not be part of the UN.”