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Bangladesh urged to disband paramilitary unit

Posted on Jul 21 2014 | IANS

New York, July 21 : The Bangladesh government should disband the paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), Human Rights Watch said Monday.

In a letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, it said that until the RAB was disbanded, it should be made an entirely civilian force by withdrawing all military officers and soldiers from its membership.

Evidence that RAB officers were responsible for the contract killings of seven men in April, allegedly on behalf of a ruling party member, have provoked outrage in Bangladesh and are yet another example of how the unit has operated as a death squad, Human Rights Watch said.

"The Bangladeshi government has promised to reform RAB and hold it accountable, but it has utterly failed," said Human Rights Watch.

"The lack of accountability has allowed the Rapid Action Battalion to run amok. RAB is beyond reform and should swiftly be abolished."

The unit was established in 2004 by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

Over the last decade, successive governments led by the BNP, the subsequent military-backed caretaker regime, and since 2009, the Awami League, have allowed the force to operate with impunity, leading to serious and systematic abuses.

RAB has been responsible for numerous acts of torture and other ill-treatment, arbitrary arrests, and approximately 800 killings over the last 10 years, the US rights body said.

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