Someday after Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit (I-Unit) reported on Bangladesh’s infamous Speedy Motion Battalion (RAB) receiving cybersecurity and surveillance training in the UK, it could possibly reveal that 9 of its members additionally obtained items and coaching in a minimum of two European Union nations in 2022.
The RAB as an organisation and 7 people at the moment or previously working for it had been sanctioned in December 2021 by the US underneath 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, obtained coaching or different providers within the Netherlands and Poland.
Since 2010, human rights teams have written extensively concerning the RAB’s alleged human rights abuses, which vary from pressured 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 advised Al Jazeera.
“What these paperwork recommend is that the RAB has been travelling around the globe buying gear 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 a minimum of 600 pressured disappearances since 2009 and greater than 600 extrajudicial killings since 2018.
Overseas intelligence coaching
In March 2022, RAB officers travelled to Poland, the place they obtained overseas intelligence coaching, in keeping with paperwork and statements obtained by Al Jazeera.
Amongst them was RAB Extra Director Common 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 presents coaching to navy personnel, legislation enforcement organisations and personal navy firms.
Later within the 12 months, in September, three RAB members travelled to the Netherlands to “take part in a pre-shipment inspection” of police canines 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.
Based on RAB paperwork obtained by Al Jazeera, the Polish and Dutch governments had been forwarded copies of the journey notices by the RAB.
Magnitsky Act sanctions
Beneath 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 firms and people are prohibited from doing enterprise with them.
Based on Amanda Strayer, supervising workers lawyer for accountability with US-based human rights organisation Human Rights First, RAB officers travelling to Europe exhibits why allies must work collectively relating to sanctions in opposition to human rights abusers.
“We’re speaking about them going to Europe to get coaching to get higher at what they do,” Strayer advised Al Jazeera.
“The UK, the European Union, Canada, all of them have very comparable model world Magnitsky sanctions packages. 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 laborious for the EU as a result of it’s such a big multilateral organisation.
“EU consensus will not be 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 obtained cybersecurity and mass surveillance coaching whereas in UK.
— Al Jazeera Investigations (@AJIunit) December 7, 2022
Greater than 25 journeys to Europe
Extra 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 had been to obtain coaching on utilizing mass surveillance gear and others had been for pre-shipment inspections of apparatus.
In 2017, its then-leader Benazir Ahmed, who is likely 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 experiences of abuse by the group’s members going again more than 10 years.
The drive, founded in 2004, has been linked to extrajudicial killings, pressured 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.
Based on Mohammad Ashrafuzzaman, liaison officer on the Asian Human Rights Fee, that poses a major threat.
“Organisations just like the UN must strongly rethink if they need murderers to construct peace on this planet.”
Ashrafuzzaman mentioned the UK and EU ought to take a tough take a look at their insurance policies in the direction of the RAB: “Regardless of the US designation of sanction, the UK and a number of the EU states are offering coaching and items to those folks.
“Diplomacy and growth partnership … shouldn’t be past the very primary precept of democracy and human rights … core values of the UK and the European Union.”
‘This could elevate eyebrows’
Member of European Parliament Thijs Reuten from the Netherlands, commenting on the RAB’s journeys to the European Union, advised Al Jazeera that the truth that “providers 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 definitely elevate 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 better coordination amongst like-minded companions.”
“Pending a transparent and demonstrable dedication to such investigations, the EU would possibly want to think about harmonising its restrictive measures on RAB with its companions,” Reuten advised Al Jazeera.
Proper of reply
In response to questions requested by the I-Unit, the Dutch Ministry of Overseas Affairs mentioned it’s conscious of US sanctions in opposition to the RAB and that it’s conscious of the human rights scenario 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 canines aren’t thought-about strategic items (navy items or dual-use), and due to this fact no export allow is required for such transactions. The Ministry of Overseas Affairs due to this fact will not be concerned within the export of specifically skilled canines to Bangladesh.”
The spokesperson continued: “It’s attainable 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 unique Schengen nation.”
The Dutch authorities mentioned it was unable to ascertain whether or not it obtained a duplicate 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.