Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen has announced plans to hold talks with Washington about rolling back the sanctions it imposed on former and current officials of the Rapid Action Battalion and is hopeful of a breakthrough.He addressed the issue during a virtual media briefing on Tuesday ahead of Indian President Ram Nath Kovind’s visit to Dhaka for the celebrations marking Bangladesh’s 50th Victory Day.
In a move that took Dhaka by surprise, the United States on Dec 11 announced sanctions on seven top officials of the RAB, including its former chief Benazir Ahmed, in connection with “serious human rights abuse”.
Momen, too, expressed disappointment at the decision, which he said, was taken without consulting the government even though the two sides had been in touch over various other issues.
But the government will look to find a resolution through diplomacy, according to him.
We’ll talk to them about it because not all American decisions are right. There’re many examples of that. We’ll make the effort to discuss the matter. They’ve enough sensible and wise people and I hope they’ll change their position.”
“The prime minister has given us a responsibility and we’ll take the initiative through dialogue.”
In an immediate reaction to the sanctions, the foreign ministry summoned US Ambassador to Bangladesh Earl R Miller to convey Dhaka’s discontent over the matter to Washington.
Momen, who had lived in the US for a long time, also highlighted the issues of police brutality and disappearances there.
Our colleagues in the US report that about 600,000 people go missing each year. And they are saying that in the last 10 years, 600 people have gone missing in our country,” he said while emphasising the difference in the figures.
“And secondly, every year in America, according to US data, thousands of people are shot and killed by police — extrajudicial killings. Here, one or two people occasionally die.”
Momen believes Bangladesh draws added scrutiny for issues such as extrajudicial killings as it is not an influential player on the world stage.
“Bangladesh isn’t such a powerful country. That’s why it [the US] has suddenly made such a big decision at the urging of some quarters or human rights NGOs without informing us.”
But Momen does not believe the sanctions on RAB officials will sour relations between the two countries.