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BD Government Should Disband or Radically Reform RAB: HRW

Members of Rapid Action Battalion

The Bangladeshi government is failing to keep its commitment to end extrajudicial killings, torture and other abuses by the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and hold those responsible accountable, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a new report today. Brad Adams, the Director (Asia) of HRW said, after two years in office, the government has had more than enough time to take action to stop the RAB’s murderous practices. A death squad is roaming the streets of Bangladesh and the government does not appear to be doing anything to stop it. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina needs to act.

The 53-page report, “‘Crossfire’: Continued Human Rights Abuses by Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion” documents abuses by RAB in and around Dhaka, the capital, under the current Awami League-led government. Nearly 200 people have been killed in RAB operations since January 6, 2009, when the government assumed office. While in opposition the Awami League promised to end extrajudicial killings, but since it came to office senior government officials have denied that RAB has committed abuses, and some have even justified them.

The report builds on the 2006 Human Rights Watch report, “Judge, Jury, and Executioner: Torture and Extrajudicial Killings by Bangladesh’s Elite Security Force.” It is based on over 80 interviews with victims, witnesses, human rights defenders, journalists, law enforcement officials, lawyers, and judges.

Although the government has made many commitments to end the killings and to punish perpetrators, no RAB officer or official has ever been prosecuted for a “crossfire” killing or other human rights abuse. “Crossfire” is a blanket term used to justify most of the unit’s killings.

The government should either make major steps towards RAB accountability and reform in the next six months or disband it, Human Rights Watch said. Donors such as the US, United Kingdom, and Australia should immediately withdraw all assistance and cooperation until and unless dramatic improvements take place.

RAB was formed in March 2004 as a composite force comprising members from the military -army, air force, and navy – the police, and members of Bangladesh’s other law enforcement groups. Members are assigned from their parent organizations, to which they return after serving with the unit. RAB operates under the Ministry of Home Affairs and is commanded by an officer not below the rank of deputy inspector general of the police or the equivalent military rank. The unit is regarded as an elite counter terrorism force and indeed has targeted, apart from criminal suspects, alleged members of militant Islamist or left-wing groups.

In often standardized press statements, the unit claims that criminals were shot and killed in “crossfire” after they or their accomplices opened fire on RAB. Investigations by Human Rights Watch and Bangladeshi human rights organizations have found, however, that many victims have been executed while in the unit’s custody. Bodies of those killed have often carried marks indicating that they had been tortured. Many people who survived periods in the unit’s custody have alleged that they were tortured there.

In one recent case, on March 3, RAB personnel in civilian clothes picked up Rasal Ahmed Bhutto while he was minding a friend’s shop in Dhaka. Bhutto’s brother-in-law, Gulam Mustafa, told Human Rights Watch that one of their relatives in the army was able to contact colleagues in RAB and extract a promise that Bhutto would not be killed in “crossfire.” However, on March 10, Gulam Mustafa said, Bhutto was brought to the area where he lived in a vehicle belonging to the unit and was shot and killed. RAB summoned journalists to show the body of an alleged criminal killed in crossfire.

“They brought him and committed cold-blooded murder,” Mustafa told Human Rights Watch.

Members of the Awami League were victims of RAB while in opposition, and senior party officials contended that it engaged in politically motivated killings. But the impunity the unit has enjoyed since it was established continues under the Awami League government.

Echoing their predecessors in the BNP-led government, the home minister and other government representatives deny any wrongdoing by the unit and other law enforcement agencies. Instead, they cling to the fiction that all of those killed were shot by authorities acting in self defense.

In March 2009, for example, Law Minister Shafique Ahmed told Human Rights Watch that the government had no intention of investigating allegations of past human rights abuses by security forces, even though the perpetrators remained in the unit’s ranks and would be likely to continue their illegal methods. Ahmed said that even though he did not condone “crossfire” killings, it should be remembered that RAB had only killed “criminals.” In May 2010, despite numerous reports by human rights groups, the minister said that, “No more crossfire incidents are taking place in the country.”

Home Minister Sahara Khatun, whose ministry supervises the unit, said in January 2011 in response to allegations of rising extrajudicial executions: “Many people are talking and will talk about this. But as the home minister, I am saying that the law enforcers’ task is to bring the criminals to the book.” When asked about allegations by Human Rights Watch on continuing extrajudicial killings, she said: “What will the law enforcers do – save themselves or die – when criminals open fire on them.”

Port and Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan has said that crossfire killings are not human rights violations and that such killings have helped to bring extortion and other crimes under control.

Disappointingly, the government has not renounced any of these comments, Human Rights Watch said. Awami League officials have consistently argued that they do not need to root out abusers because they could exercise effective political control over the battalion, a claim that is belied by the evidence during the government’s more than two years in office.

In a worrying development, RAB has recently begun to carry out enforced disappearances. Bangladeshi human rights groups say that it has started killing people without acknowledging any role in their deaths.

Human Rights Watch said that after seven years of widespread abuses and more than 700 deaths, if the unit’s human rights record does not improve dramatically within the next six months and abusers are not prosecuted, the Bangladeshi government should disband it. In its place the government should create a new unit within the police or a new institution that puts human rights at its core to lead the fight against serious and organized crime and terrorism. Neither RAB nor any new force created should draw its forces from the military, which has a different operating culture than a civilian police force, Human Rights Watch said.

The US, UK, and Australia should insist that the Bangladesh government follow through on its commitments and ensure that there are prompt, impartial, and independent investigations into torture and deaths in the custody of the unit, Human Rights Watch said.

“Instead of an elite law enforcement unit designed to control crime and terrorism, RAB has become a deadly law breaker,” said Adams. “It is now fair to ask whether the government has any intention of addressing this scourge.”

Selected Testimony from the Report

“I asked them how much money they got to kill my son and told them that they could kill me in crossfire as well. One RAB officer then grabbed my neck and said, ‘Get out of here, bitch. If you don’t shut up, people here will kill you.’ I asked him what he was doing there and if it was not his job to protect me. He then calmed down, asked me to leave and said that I could collect Pappu’s body at Mitford hospital.” -Mother of Azad Hussein Pappu, killed by RAB on February 28, 2010

“The media was already there and RAB kept saying that Bhutto had been caught in a special operation. I started shouting at them, saying maybe Bhutto had done some bad things but where is the rule of law, how dare RAB kill Bhutto. The RAB officers just stared at me and said nothing, which frightened me. And then although some people supported me, a local Awami League leader came out and started raising slogans saying that Bhutto was a criminal anyway… RAB then took the body away for the autopsy. When I went to collect the body, I saw that there was only one bullet inside his ear. The police made me sign a blank sheet of paper. I didn’t want to do it but then I just gave in.”- Gulam Mustafa, recounts the scene at the killing of a close relative.

I was blindfolded and my hands were tied. I was forced to sit down. Four men in civilian clothes beat my legs with sugar cane stalks, while a man in RAB uniform sat on a chair watching. My legs were swollen like pillows. – Baby Akhtar recounts her torture by RAB.


May 10, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized | ,


  1. […] Hasan Talukder discusses a recent report of Human Rights Watch, which recommends that to stop the extra judicial killings, […]

    Pingback by Bangladesh: Measures Against Extra Judicial Killings · Global Voices | May 10, 2011 | Reply

  2. Sub: A reproach against an Army Lt. Col. and some of colleagues who have been selling out the power of their uniforms providing multifarious assistance to a diehard syndicate responsible for committing abominable crimes that made our lives virtually unlivable.

    Lt Col. Rashidul Alom, Dir. RAB-1, has been insulating his relatives (monir) and a crime committing syndicate involved in land grabbing, lake filling, harboring creating criminals, selling drugs, bribery blackmailing, prostitution, vandalizing, extortion, loan-sharking, encouraging building code violation, oppressing, attacking and ruining a renowned family….led by 3bros (self-proclaimed Matabars Sheeru Shaulldin, Momean. They have satanically persecuted us for 7dissapated long years by keeping us from earning a living, stopping our source of income, garbling our land records, keeping us under watch round the clock, bringing mobs on hire to scare abuse us ruining our social status calling us insane to take away our credibility, not allowing and allowed other to mix with us, throwing full-sized bricks onto our tin-shed roof like hailstorm, bugging our phones and many more….to many departments we went to for assistance to no succor obviously Lt. Col. Rashid hampered its operation deactivating. Even phoning up to have the transgressors released from prison.

    Prior to the happenings Major Rashedul ALom came most frequently to Monir’s building with RAB-1 sticker posted on an extensive vehicle loaded with uniformed men in full gear moving around our house with walkie-talkies in hand and getting inside 2121’s building feasting on the 3rd flr. Just for the sake of showdown.. I distinctly remember marauding/myriad of times doubtful activities in momentum when Lt. Col. Rashid came veiling RAB-1 in font as a cover up to bring in/out luggages/briefcases inside 212’s building or putting within the cars of a black Nissan marked RAB-1 Dhaka Metro Gho 02-3303, Dhaka Metro Go 17-8548 and Dhaka Metro GA 174645 . What’s inside the carriers certainly no smelly undergarments? Times of Major’s visitation invigoration swept fashioning the street urchins taking their shirts off and dangling, dancing dauntingly with ear shattering music played on deck in the street while the syndicate members came out marching to the band.

    Observably Rashid is harboring presently a criminally attitudinized male specimen that happens to be a relative Babon son of Monir & Bilu a crime committing couple. For days he was unseen till suspiciously Rashid’s car D M GA 174645 shoved him inside. Question is who authorized him for misappropriation of government vehicle for his personal gain? A neutral investigation will reveal an exclusive array of Rashid’s role play as an insulator of crime and an ally of injustice.

    PS this is just a tip of the iceberg….

    Comment by Nadia | May 21, 2011 | Reply

  3. Self-proclaimed Matabars: Sheeru, Shalluddin & Momin are infamously known as “Khal Chottas”, specializing in Lake/Land/Home Grabbing, combining with Cheat & Forgery based ingenious documentation…ref: a Banner headline made by The Daily Ittefaq dated 12&13 March 2010 “Khal Dakhal Kore Dalan Kotha… Rajdhanir Ulune ek kilometer khaler naam nishana muche geche khamatadhor shatadhik bahutol bhaban maliker beparwa thabai…sthaniyora obhijog karen ulon khaler shotkora trish bhagh jomi jabar dakhal kore niyeche matbar paribar….”

    Comment by Nadia | May 21, 2011 | Reply


    Child rights abuse; lack of proper investigation; impunity. Several organizations were foiled by the man-in-uniform.
    ———————————— pls. ensure it is represented to the rightful.

    212 building in Ulan West Rampura a mere boy of 8 called Alamin (Russell) is being run as a slave by a crime committing couple Bilu, & Monir known for their abominable acts is insulated by Bilu’s brother Lt. Col. Rashidul Alom posted to RAB-1 as the Commanding Officer whose assistance retained the boy from education except teaching him immeasurable skills of wrongdoings for example his behavior no longer personifies a normal kid but rather a deranged one generally generating disruptions in front of public lacking total control of himself. They certainly trained well, now he has a mind of his own not requiring further instructions he performs to their demands without being told. 8:00am in the morning till 12:00am at midnight he keeps on toiling. Bilu, happens to be recorded as a notoriously perverted character there is no telling what she does with the child. Often he is seen on the riskily roof top ridge walking to fetch their pigeon.-once not long ago a working boy had fallen from their 3rd flr sunshade onto their pointed steel grille boundary wall, his face was slashed opened especially his mouth ripped apart his tongue was lolling out, blood gushing. Neighboring bostee people helped remove him away. Information has it he died, but it was never inquired by Police…Why? But why not? As the redeemer-Lt. Col Rashid was not afar to cover it up once and for all. Suspicious transactions are observed, indicting to drug dealing maneuvered by the lad. Thieving hasn’t been left out not to mention an expert liar. Lately he has executed an unforgivable delinquency by poisoning 6pet dogs.

    Alleged: Perpetrators:
    1) Bilu (a crime committing syndicate is united in Ulon led by self-proclaimed Matabars Sheeru,
    Shaulluddin &momean 3 bros sheltering and creating criminals making a sanctuary)
    2)Monir Uddin Ahmed
    Note: Due to the reprisals from the syndicate everyone turned into statues not risking to crack, but feigning testifiers are abundant keeping reserved surveillance round the clock.

    3)Lt Col. Rashidul Alom Dir. RAB-1

    Time is running out….
    An in-depth investigation will reveal a Pandora’s box.
    The Boy Must be taken away from the accursed residence were malevolence dwells.
    Immediately he should be brought into the limelight until further harmful damage is done to others and himself.
    And the defaulters are punished by arresting and bringing before the court of Law.

    Comment by Nadia | May 21, 2011 | Reply

  5. Sexual Harassment over cellular phone by M.Sohail RAB Legal & Media Wing Director.
    01199816209. 4/3/2011 8:04pm. 2m04s

    Obviously M. Sohail, Commander of RAB Legal & Media Wing called over cell to inquire me the meaning of the SMS forwarded to him: Pls. check out the net, typing Lt. Col. Rashidul Alom RAB-1 CO.“Just what it says, read the writing on the wall and you will get your answer in a very short while.” I replied.“This SMS is illicit and he is not going to glance what’s written in the internet.(of course he won’t, then he’ll turn into a runt if he does)“Why don’t you go to court instead?”“Because I will have the dirty job done by others as a substitute- inferring to RAB moreover the defaulters. Besides Rashid has kept me at bay from the court.“Bullshit.” He cursed.“Watch your mouth Mister.” I rigidly warned.“Then, you better stop transmitting this nonsense.”“No l wont, Freedom of Information Act has been passed not to mention Freedom of Speech and it’s a free country, everybody has the right to know what’s going on, lets just think of it as A Spread of Message. What you gonna do about that? Do whatever you can. I’m here and I’m awaiting.” He became furiously vehement verbally cussing at me ” FUCK YOU, FUCK YOU & FUCK YOU.”
    TO Note: 7:35pm SMS was sent, approximately 30mins of time elapsed in ringing me. What transpired within the period? I Believe Commander Sohail informed to Lt. COl. Rashid, not only out of sheer blemished curiosity punched in the words to reveal the cat has finally been out of the bag! Could it be that the nemesis himself? Ringing thru by not acquiring his own designated mobile number:01199818251,01713040405 , personal- 01713494191,01715025935.(very smart) For who could be so fuming with rage that knows no bounds and a malignant abhorrence so shocking.

    Comment by Nadia | May 21, 2011 | Reply

  6. grave immoral act by an SP highway bogora & CO RAB-1
    3/1/2011 8:30pm
    SP Mir Ashraf Ali of Bogora Highway impersonated himself as The SP of Bogora for the sake of showdown brought his vehicle for an imperial entrance into the neighborhood of Ulon west rampura riding a conspicuous vehicle, Mitsubishi Pajero Dhaka Metro Gho 116776 getting into 212’s building at Ulon Road, West Rampura Dhaka and feasting onto the 3rd. flr. to boost up Monir & spouse Bilu- a crime committing couple being an influential member of a crime committing syndicate led by self-proclaimed Matabars specializing in land/house grabbing, lake filling, forgery, harboring creating criminals, running drugs, bribery blackmailing, prostitution, vandalizing, extortion, loan-sharking, encouraging building code violation, oppressing, attacking and ruining a renowned family… joined by Lt. Col. Rashidul Alom CO, RAB-1 he too bringing an extensive vehicles of RAB Dhaka Metro 02-3303, DM Ga 174645 etc in full gear making the area look like a block raid . Later they threatened my family to leave our very own residence or else we will be picked up and/or deface to the extent of being unrecognizable further he will make sure our whereabouts are untraceable.

    Comment by Nadia | May 21, 2011 | Reply

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