At some point after Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit (I-Unit) reported on Bangladesh’s infamous Speedy Motion Battalion (RAB) receiving cybersecurity and surveillance coaching within the UK, it could reveal that 9 of its members additionally acquired items and coaching in not less than two European Union nations in 2022.
The RAB as an organisation and 7 people at the moment or previously working for it have been sanctioned in December 2021 by america beneath the World Magnitsky Act for his or her alleged involvement in human rights abuses.
The next 12 months, 9 members of the RAB, together with one of many seven people sanctioned by the US, acquired coaching or different companies within the Netherlands and Poland.
Since 2010, human rights teams have written extensively concerning the RAB’s alleged human rights abuses, which vary from compelled disappearances to extrajudicial killings and arbitrary arrests.
“We’re involved that these governments are maybe enabling the abuses that RAB has already been accused of and been discovered accountable for,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) Southeast Asia Director Meenakshi Ganguly informed Al Jazeera.
“What these paperwork recommend is that the RAB has been travelling around the globe buying tools and receiving coaching.”
When the US sanctioned the RAB and 7 present and former high-ranking RAB officers in 2021, it cited proof that the organisation was concerned in not less than 600 compelled disappearances since 2009 and greater than 600 extrajudicial killings since 2018.
International intelligence coaching
In March 2022, RAB officers travelled to Poland, the place they acquired overseas intelligence coaching, based on paperwork and statements obtained by Al Jazeera.
Amongst them was RAB Further Director Normal Khan Mohammad Azad, one of many seven folks sanctioned by the US.
The coaching in Poland was offered by an organization known as European Safety Academy (ESA), which gives coaching to army personnel, regulation enforcement organisations and personal army corporations.
Later within the 12 months, in September, three RAB members travelled to the Netherlands to “take part in a pre-shipment inspection” of police canine purchased from an organization known as Police Canine Centre for the RAB’s canine squad, paperwork reveal.
It was the second time in three years the RAB canine squad travelled to the Netherlands for such an inspection.
In accordance with RAB paperwork obtained by Al Jazeera, the Polish and Dutch governments have been forwarded copies of the journey notices by the RAB.
Magnitsky Act sanctions
Below the US’s World Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which was created to penalise human rights abusers, US belongings owned by a sanctioned particular person or organisation are frozen and US corporations and people are prohibited from doing enterprise with them.
In accordance with Amanda Strayer, supervising employees lawyer for accountability with US-based human rights organisation Human Rights First, RAB officers travelling to Europe exhibits why allies must work collectively in the case of sanctions towards human rights abusers.
“We’re speaking about them going to Europe to get coaching to get higher at what they do,” Strayer informed Al Jazeera.
“The UK, the European Union, Canada, all of them have very comparable fashion world Magnitsky sanctions applications. All of them have the capability to sanction the Speedy Motion Battalion and to sanction these senior officers.”
However, Strayer mentioned, implementing these sorts of sanctions is very onerous for the EU as a result of it’s such a big multilateral organisation.
“EU consensus isn’t one thing that comes simply and possibly that’s one of many causes that RAB felt: ‘We must always go right here as a result of it’s going to be more likely for us to get away with it,’” she mentioned.
UPDATE: The I-Unit has seen paperwork that reveal members of Bangladesh’s paramilitary group, Speedy Motion Battalion (RAB), travelled to the UK in 2022.
Though sanctioned by the US for human rights abuses, RAB acquired cybersecurity and mass surveillance coaching whereas in UK.
— Al Jazeera Investigations (@AJIunit) December 7, 2022
Greater than 25 journeys to Europe
Further knowledge collected by the I-Unit reveals that RAB officers have travelled to Europe greater than 25 occasions since 2017. A few of these journeys have been to obtain coaching on utilizing mass surveillance tools and others have been for pre-shipment inspections of apparatus.
In 2017, its then-leader Benazir Ahmed, who is without doubt one of the people sanctioned by the US, was a speaker at a police convention in Germany.
RAB members additionally travelled to China, Russia, Thailand, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates throughout that interval.
All these journeys passed off regardless of human rights teams having reported for years on the RAB’s human rights abuses, with stories of abuse by the group’s members going again greater than 10 years.
The power, based in 2004, has been linked to extrajudicial killings, compelled disappearances, and torture and has been dubbed a “dying squad” by HRW.
In March 2021, United Nations Excessive Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet mentioned the allegations of mistreatment and torture had been a “longstanding concern”.
Bangladesh is the world’s largest contributor to UN peacekeeping forces, and a UN working group has voiced issues over former RAB members being eligible for these missions.
In accordance with Mohammad Ashrafuzzaman, liaison officer on the Asian Human Rights Fee, that poses a major danger.
“Organisations just like the UN must strongly rethink if they need murderers to construct peace on the planet.”
Ashrafuzzaman mentioned the UK and EU ought to take a tough have a look at their insurance policies in direction of the RAB: “Regardless of the US designation of sanction, the UK and among the EU states are offering coaching and items to those folks.
“Diplomacy and improvement partnership … shouldn’t be past the very fundamental precept of democracy and human rights … core values of the UK and the European Union.”
‘This could increase eyebrows’
Member of European Parliament Thijs Reuten from the Netherlands, commenting on the RAB’s journeys to the European Union, informed Al Jazeera that the truth that “companies which can be utilized for inner repression, particularly by an organisation so clearly linked to human rights violations, may be obtained within the Netherlands with such ease ought to actually increase eyebrows in The Hague.”
Reuten additionally referred to a 2014 EU decision that known as on Bangladesh to finish the RAB’s impunity, saying he nonetheless helps that decision and that the Bangladesh authorities ought to perform impartial investigations into the killings and compelled disappearances.
Though Reuten made clear the EU, US and UK are all separate jurisdictions with separate human rights sanctions regimes, he mentioned: “This new proof of RAB coaching on EU soil presents a transparent case for larger coordination amongst like-minded companions.”
“Pending a transparent and demonstrable dedication to such investigations, the EU would possibly want to contemplate harmonising its restrictive measures on RAB with its companions,” Reuten informed Al Jazeera.
Proper of reply
In response to questions requested by the I-Unit, the Dutch Ministry of International Affairs mentioned it’s conscious of US sanctions towards the RAB and that it’s conscious of the human rights state of affairs in Bangladesh, however that the EU doesn’t have comparable sanctions and the federal government was not concerned within the canine purchases.
It defined that “specifically skilled canine usually are not thought-about strategic items (army items or dual-use), and due to this fact no export allow is required for such transactions. The Ministry of International Affairs due to this fact isn’t concerned within the export of specifically skilled canine to Bangladesh.”
The spokesperson continued: “It’s doable that delegations of RAB have independently travelled to the Netherlands previously years. The Embassy or the Dutch authorities haven’t had a task in such visits. The Netherlands doesn’t present visa in Bangladesh; this service is carried out by a special Schengen nation.”
The Dutch authorities mentioned it was unable to ascertain whether or not it acquired a replica of the supposed journey plans.
Police Canine Centre mentioned they “don’t acknowledge the assertion talked about in your letter, we didn’t have any members of RAB visiting us in September 2022, additionally we don’t have any enterprise affairs with them.”
The Polish authorities, European Safety Academy and Speedy Motion Battalion didn’t reply to Al Jazeera’s questions.
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