Human Rights Watch in an open letter urged Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today to establish an independent body to investigate evidence that Rab has been responsible for extrajudicial executions, disappearances, torture, and other serious abuses over many years.
“The prime minister must now broaden the probe and create an independent process to ensure accountability for all cases, not just Narayanganj,” said HRW Asia Director Brad Adams.
The New York-based rights organisation also reiterated its longstanding call that Rab be disbanded, and replaced with a fully accountable civilian law enforcement agency dedicated to fighting crime and terrorism.
Following the abduction and apparent contract killings of seven people by members of Rapid Action Battalion and other security forces in Narayanganj, the state minister for home Asaduzzaman Khan announced that the prime minister had ordered to ensure that all those responsible are found and punished, regardless of their positions.
The High Court, acting on its own motion, directed that any investigation into the killings be conducted by a specially constituted body independent of the security forces, and issued an arrest warrant against three Rab officers to be tried before civilian courts.
“After years of refusing to investigate Rab, the government has changed course and reacted quickly to the Narayanganj murders,” said Brad Adams in the report.
“This is welcome and hopefully marks a shift away from years of impunity for Rad and other security forces,” he added.
The rights organisation has long documented Rab responsibility for extrajudicial killings and torture, it said.
Most recently, HRW documented the deaths of 11 opposition activists before, during, and after the January 5 national elections.
The Bangladesh media reported several more. In six of the cases documented by the organisation, the authorities admitted security forces had initially detained the victims, and that the victims had been shot dead while in custody, the report mentioned.
Disbanding Rab is now being openly discussed in Bangladesh, the organistasion said adding that BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, who established Rab while in government, has now called for the force to be disbanded.
“This is a good opportunity for Bangladesh to deliver on its longstanding promise of zero-tolerance for human rights violations by security forces,” said Adams.
“Rab should be disbanded and replaced with a fully civilian force that operates under the rule of law and has external oversight. Death squads have no place in a democracy,” he said.