by R Chowdhury 3 June n2023
On May 17, 2023, six leading Congressmen wrote a letter to US President Joe Biden requesting stronger sanctions against the administration of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh, in power since 2009, for its continued violations of human rights and undemocratic practices.
Some quarters have raised doubts as to the authenticity of the letter. Most or all Congressional activities are found on its website. This one was not, they said. If fake, the question arises, who could dare such a dangerous forgery that went viral? And, why did the Congress, particularly the named persons, choose not to challenge it?
Congressman Bob Good, one of the signatories, finally did. “I am pleased to join an effort calling for an end to human rights abuses by the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed of Bangladesh,” said Representative Good of Virginia on his Twitter on June 2, 2023.
In December 2021, the US imposed sanctions on Bangladesh’s notorious Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and some of its top officials for their serious human rights violations that included extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, unlawful arrests and torture. Local and international rights organizations recorded hundreds of cases of their violations. Many of these abuses were committed under a draconian law, Digital Security Act (DSA), which prohibits criticism of the Hasina regime’s wrongdoings, repressive and fascist rule, heightened corruption and sellout of national interests to its sponsor, India. Even a small parody line on the ruling family landed people, including minors, in the crowded jails.
In view of the ensuing national election by the end of the year or early next year, and the ruling regime’s records of serious fraudulent practices in the election system to garner victory, the US last month clamped Visa Restrictions on the perpetrators towards free, fair and participatory election in the country. Notably, in the elections held in 2014 and 2018, Hasina’s goons secured almost 100% success for their candidates, at times stuffing ballots the night before in collusion with the local administration and election officials.
Unfortunately, the sanctions made little impact so far because the Hasina administration remained defiant of these measures and continued its abuses and wrongdoings. In view of the US government’s goals of democracy, human rights, election integrity, and combating authoritarianism and corruption in overseas engagements, the Congressmen’s letter is logical and forceful.
The lawmakers requested the president to impose stronger sanctions against the administration of Sheikh Hasina for its unabated violations of human rights and other democratic practices in the country. They also recommended that the military and police perpetrators of such abuses should be barred from the UN overseas missions. Stronger sanctions were important in view of the crucial national elections to be held in a few months, they added.
Citing the earlier sanctions against the government’s “Death Squad,” the RAB, the letter urged harder sanctions against the criminals who were clearly identified by such international rights organizations as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Freedom House and the United Nations. The RAB and police kept violently attacking the peaceful political gatherings and activities of the opposition parties ending in fatal consequences. Quoting popular German media, the Deutsche Welle (DW) and Swedish Netra News, the letter said that a few RAB whistleblowers confirmed that orders for death and persecution came from the Prime Minister or the Home Minister.
The lawmaker also noted that sanctions on RAB failed to produce the desired result as the Hasina administration defied them and intensified persecutions “on its people.” They further observed that “Hasina’s misconduct” encouraged other nations in the region to go against US security interests and side with China and Russia.
The Congressmen also blamed the Hasina regime for persecuting the Hindu and other minority communities. Much of these persecutions were deliberately committed to assign blame on the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat-e-Islam (JI), falsely accusing them of being fundamentalists. On the contrary, many leading Indian leaders praised excellent communal harmony in neighboring Bangladesh, far better than in their own country.
Election Under a Caretaker Administration
It is important to concentrate on the content of the letter, as well as its possible intent. The issue being discussed worldwide is a positive aspect in exposing the naked fascism of the Hasina regime, as well as its evil design to manage yet another election to celebrate one more illegal triumph.
Under no circumstances the next election could be allowed to be held under this corrupt and fascist regime that failed to ensure even an iota of fairness and sanity in the two national elections and thousands of local-level polls during its 15 years of illegal occupation of the seat of power. The election must be held under a neutral, non-partisan caretaker government for which the entire opposition and nation are campaigning. The people must be allowed to choose their leaders to usher in patriotic good governance that they have not seen for decades.
The writer is a former soldier and fighter in the liberation war of Bangladesh in 1971. He authored a few books and co-authored a few others. Regularly writes on contemporary issues in Bangladesh.