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Momen writes to Blinken seeking removal of sanctions on RAB

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Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen has written a long letter to his US counterpart Antony J. Blinken on a number of issues including a call to “waive sanctions” on RAB, its current and former senior officials.

“This is vitally important that we begin to work on a priority basis to find ways and means to waive sanctions,” Dr Momen wrote in his letter sent on December 24 where he had referred the candid discussions he had with Blinken that gave Bangladesh the hope that the issue would be resolved “quickly with due seriousness”.

Dr Momen updated the US Secretary of State sharing Bangladesh’s position on democracy, freedom of speech and human rights, minority and labour rights issues in his letter apart from touching upon sanctions issue broadly, a diplomatic source in Washington told UNB.

The Foreign Minister said they are confident that the continuation of sincere and candid dialogues between the two friendly countries would help advance the bilateral relations on the basis of mutual respect and benefits.

Bangladesh remains convinced that the US would continue to be a trusted and contributing partner in our journey towards emerging as a knowledge-based, tech-savvy and developed nation.

In his letter, Dr Momen wished Secretary Blinken and his family a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2022.

Over the years, Dr Momen said, RAB has emerged as the most efficient law enforcement agency of the Government that has been at the forefront of combating terrorism, drug trafficking, human trafficking and other transnational crimes. RAB’s crucial role in quelling crimes has generated much confidence among the citizens.

RAB has achieved public confidence as it delivers and is not corrupt, and at the same time, as excesses of abuse have dramatically reduced over the last decade, he said.

Notwithstanding the sanctions on the RAB and its officials, the Government of Bangladesh would continue to maintain its ‘zero tolerance’ policy to combat militancy, terrorism, violence against women, drug trafficking and attempts to disrupt religious harmony in the country, Dr Momen mentioned in his letter.

“The competence and experience of the RAB will remain relevant in dealing with issues that we consider threat to our national and regional security,” Dr Momen thinks.

He said some of these issues are also of high priority for the US administration.

“Our Government remains open to sharing experience, revisiting some aspects of the US and UK trained RAB’s rules of engagement and their training on human rights in handling the crimes.”

The Foreign Minister thanked Secretary Blinken profusely for his telephone call on 15 December 2021 noting that frank and open discussions like that always help overcome the shared challenges and add further momentum to consolidate the bilateral relations.

The United States as the largest democracy in the world serves as a source of encouragement to the people of Bangladesh as far as governance and institution-building are concerned, Dr Momen mentioned.

Dr Momen reiterated that the sanctions on RAB were unexpected.

He said the sudden announcement came to Bangladesh as a “sheer surprise”, especially at a time, when the two friendly nations are set to celebrate the five decades of ever-growing partnership.

“Again, while the Government of Bangladesh has always shown its readiness to deal with specific allegations against the RAB members, it does not see merit in bringing the entire unit under sanctions of the US Department of Treasury,” he said.

Clearly, Dr Momen said, all these issues need to be carefully reexamined as such decision might have been influenced by unverified or unsubstantiated allegations of command responsibility rather than by facts and ground realities.

Some foreign-funded NGOs remain active in misguiding Bangladesh’s friends and partners deliberately by propagating concocted, presumptive and distorted narratives against our Government and its machineries to pursue their vested interests, Dr Momen mentioned in his letter.

Some human -rights organizations, instead of reporting the fact truthfully which is the cardinal principle they should be guided by, fabricate or distort the fact, according to the letter.

The matters that have been cited for imposing sanctions have remained under active discussions, including under the framework of the regular institutional dialogues between the two sides.

“This is evident that, mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we could not make optimum use of the existing dialogue mechanisms for free flow of information,” Dr Momen said.

Dr Momen drew Secretary Blinken’s attention to the Country Report on Terrorism 2020 recently published by the US Department of State.

In the report, Bangladesh fared quite well with only three minor terrorist occurrences and with no terrorism related death.

“This achievement can be attributed to the relentless efforts made by the security agencies in Bangladesh, mainly by RAB,” Dr Momen mentioned.

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