US taking steps to slap visa restrictions on Bangladeshis
The US Department of State said it is taking steps to impose visa restrictions on Bangladeshi individuals responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic election process in Bangladesh.
"These individuals include members of law enforcement, the ruling party, and the political opposition," said State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller in a statement today.
He said the US is committed to supporting free and fair elections in Bangladesh that are carried out in a peaceful manner.
"These persons and members of their immediate family may be found ineligible for entry into the United States," he added.
Additional persons found to have been responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic election process in Bangladesh may also be found ineligible for US visas under this policy in the future, Miller said.
"This includes current and former Bangladeshi officials, members of opposition and ruling political parties, and members of law enforcement, the judiciary, and security services."
"Our actions today reflect the continued commitment of the United States to supporting Bangladesh's goal of peacefully holding free and fair national elections, and to support those seeking to advance democracy globally," reads the statement.
The announcement comes when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is visiting the US to attend the UN General Assembly in New York.
It also comes as the ruling Awami League and the opposition BNP are at odds over the polls-time administration just ahead of the national elections due by January next year.
On Tuesday, she attended a banquet hosted by US President Joe Biden. On Thursday, she held a meeting with US Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Uzra Zeya and US Assistant Secretary at the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu.
During the meeting, Zeya said Washington seeks to support Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's public calls for free and fair elections that are carried out in a peaceful manner.
Earlier on May 24 this year, Washington announced the visa policy on Bangladesh against the backdrop of the alleged irregularities in the 2014 and 2018 elections.
The government says the elections will be held under the current administration as per the constitution, but the opposition BNP is demanding an interim administration, arguing that a free and fair election under the current government is not possible.
In the announcement on May 24, Washington said the actions that undermine the democratic election process include vote rigging, voter intimidation, the use of violence to prevent people from exercising their right to freedoms of association and peaceful assembly, and the use of measures designed to prevent political parties, voters, civil society, or the media from disseminating their views.
Following the announcement, Awami League leaders said BNP should be worried because of the visa policy as violence before or during the election is a criterion that may trigger visa restrictions.
On the other hand, BNP leaders welcomed the US visa policy, saying that it would play a supporting role in ensuring fair elections.
Earlier on December 10, 2021, the US imposed sanctions on RAB and seven of its current and former officials for alleged enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings and torture. The US did not invite Bangladesh to the democracy summit in 2021 and 2023.
A series of visits to Bangladesh by the top US officials took place over the last two years. They invariably spoke of free and fair elections, upholding human rights, media freedom and the protection of the human rights defenders.