Momen calls US sanction “unfortunate”

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Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on Saturday called “very unfortunate” and “not fact-based” the US sanction on some incumbent and former Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) officials over alleged serious rights abuse and said Dhaka would review if was the outcome of any “geopolitics”.

“This (sanction) is very unfortunate … I would expect from USA more solid fact-based response,” he told reporters hours after the foreign ministry summoned US envoy in Dhaka Earl R Miller to convey Bangladesh’s “discontent” over the development.

Asked if he thought Bangladesh became a “victim of geopolitics” Momen said “it could be so” and added “we will review what is going on”.

Replying to a question whether the development could strain Bangladesh-US relations, the foreign minister said “I don’t think so” but quickly added that “it depends on the United States”.

Momen said the allegations of gross rights violations by the elite anti-crime police unit was not “based on facts” and said RAB was a disciplined institution which rather “has been securing human rights for the people of Bangladesh”.

The foreign minister gave the comments on the sidelines of a programme at Foreign Service Academy in the capital.

On Friday, the US Departments of Treasury and of Department of State imposed human rights-related sanctions on RAB and seven current and former top officials of the elite force, including incumbent inspector general of police Benazir Ahmed, who previously commanded the elite force as its director general.
Replying another question whether the US sanction was influenced by the geopolitics, Momen said that they would analysis whether Bangladesh is victim out of it.

“(Now), I can only say sometimes the countries or governments which perform well often face attack. . . If you do well, sometimes it brings implication,” he said.

The foreign minister said the US claimed that RAB killed 600 people in 10 years but “we have no information who were killed” and the US decision should have been backed by facts.

He said six lakh people disappear every year in the United States, while 1,000 of their policemen are killed in the line of duty, but none is punished.

The minister said foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen earlier today summoned US ambassador talked the matter with him.

“He (Miller) is also somewhat surprised (about the sanction),” he said.

A foreign ministry statement said the Foreign Secretary expressed Dhaka’s discontent over the US sanctions summoning its ambassador to Bangladesh to his office.

“Foreign Secretary Momen expressed Bangladesh’s disappointment that the decision was taken unilaterally by the US Administration without any prior consultation with the Government of Bangladesh” as the US envoy reached his office, a foreign ministry statement said.

The statement said the US ambassador took note of the Bangladesh concerns raised by the Bangladesh and assured of conveying the same to Washington DC.

“He (Miller) concurred that the excellent multifaceted relations between two countries could be further deepened through established consultation mechanisms and high level visits,” it read.

The envoy, it said, further expressed the willingness of the US Government to remain closely engaged with the Government of Bangladesh in the coming days on issues of mutual interest,” it said.
The US departments of Treasury and of State imposed the sanctions on seven senior incumbent and former RAB officials including Benazir Ahmed.

“Today, on International Human Rights Day, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is designating 15 individuals and 10 entities for their connection to human rights abuse and repression in several countries around the globe, pursuant to multiple sanctions authorities,” a Treasury release said.

In a simultaneous announcement the US State Department barred Ahmed, a former RAB director general, and another former RAB official Lieutenant Colonel Miftah Uddin Ahmed, from traveling to the United States.