Human rights groups urge UN to halt talks over increase in Bangladeshi peacekeepers – benarnews
Human rights groups urge UN to review ties with Bangladesh armed forces in light of TV documentary alleging corruption of senior government officials, including Bangladeshi army chief who is due to visit the UN headquarters this week.
The joint appeal by Human Rights Watch and six other rights groups came as more media in the South Asian country urged the government to explain the allegations in an Al documentary. Jazeera who tied the head of the Bangladeshi army, General Aziz Ahmed, to corruption deals.
“Discussions on increasing deployments of Bangladeshi troops to UN missions should be put on hold pending the results of the UN’s full review of its ties to the military,” advocacy groups say rights in a statement released Friday.
Bangladesh is the most uniformed UN member state providing troops to the global body’s peacekeeping operations, but the UN should assess these ties and scrutinize Bangladeshi peacekeepers for make sure they have no records of rights violations, said Brad Adams, Asia director for New York-based Human Rights Watch.
“The UN said Bangladesh should investigate Al Jazeera’s allegations, but we said, ‘No, the UN should investigate them.’ It is up to the UN to ensure that peacekeepers do not violate human rights, ”he told BenarNews on Monday.
General Aziz, who spoke with his US counterpart in Washington last week, was due to meet with UN officials in New York this week to discuss Bangladesh’s increased role in UN peacekeeping, rights groups said in their statement.
Al Jazeera’s investigative report, released last week, had secretly filmed a brother of the general saying he “can deploy Bangladesh security forces for his own personal and political gain, including the Action Battalion. Rapid (RAB), “an elite paramilitary unit, the rights groups,” said.
The RAB has long fought against allegations of complicity in “extrajudicial killings”, enforced disappearances and torture. Last October, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators urged the Trump administration to impose sanctions on senior battalion commanders.
“We don’t want the UN to run out of peacekeepers and the response to that is proper oversight. In Bangladesh, not all armed forces have committed human rights violations, but the RAB, on the other hand, anyone of it is suspect and the UN must come up with a system where they can say with certainty that the RAB people were not involved. in abuse, ”Adams said.
Michael Kugelman, senior associate for South Asia at the Wilson Center, a Washington think tank, agrees, saying the UN should not outright ban Bangladeshi peacekeepers.
“[B]But if he finds out that there are currently Bangladeshi peacekeepers who have been involved in the crimes, they should be banned. Better that than withdrawing them now, which could end up penalizing innocent people and depriving the UN of much-needed staff, ”Kugelman told BenarNews.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for UN peacekeeping operations confirmed that General Aziz was due to visit the UN headquarters on Tuesday.
“Peacekeepers meet regularly with defense personnel from countries that provide personnel to our operations. The Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations will meet with General Aziz Ahmed tomorrow at the request of Bangladesh, ”the spokesperson said in response to an email request from BenarNews.
Qatar-based Al Jazeera report claimed the Bangladeshi military secretly purchased surveillance equipment made by an Israeli company, although Bangladesh does not recognize Israel and prohibits nationals or any trade with Israelis .
The Bangladesh military rejected the claims, saying the equipment was purchased in Hungary for one of the army’s contingents to be deployed in UN peacekeeping missions.
On Thursday, Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN secretary-general, said the UN was aware of Al Jazeera’s report “concerning allegations of corruption against senior officials in Bangladesh,” when a journalist l ‘asked about this during a daily press briefing.
“The allegations of corruption are a serious matter which should be investigated by the relevant authorities,” said Dujarric.
The UN has not identified a need for such surveillance equipment in peacekeeping agreements, he said, noting that no such equipment had been deployed with the Bangladeshi contingents in peacekeeping operations.
General visits the Pentagon
According to Adams and Kugelman, U.S. military officials should not have met General Aziz last week.
“Given the Biden administration’s focus on building democracy and reporting abuse, the meeting was not a very good one. That said, the administration may have raised the allegations at the meeting, ”Kugelman said.
HRW has long urged the US government not to hold public meetings with security forces from other countries with a long history of rights abuses unless foreign governments can show they are taking action to address it. said Adams, who was interviewed for Al Jazeera. documentary.
“Even before the Al Jazeera report, we gave the previous administration and the Biden administration recommendations that include not holding such meetings, which can serve as propaganda meetings for those countries and their forces. security, ”Adams said.
“It makes it look like they’re all best friends. If they’re having a meeting, they should push them on human rights.
Al Jazeera’s report coincided with a trip to the United States by General Aziz, Adams said.
“We urged the United States to cancel meetings with Aziz, but they didn’t, they said they were routine and regularly scheduled meetings. They have to explain why they went ahead, ”he said.
BenarNews has reached out to the US military spokesperson for a further response to that provided to him last week.
“Thank you for your follow-up request. I have nothing to add to our previous statement, ”Lt. Col. Curtis J. Kellogg said in an email Monday.
Last week, he said the military was aware of the allegations against General Aziz in the Al Jazeera report.
“As part of our continued defense and security cooperation, we welcome visitors from the armies of partner countries,” US Army spokesman Lt. Col. Curtis Kellogg told BenarNews.
Bangladeshi media voices
Meanwhile, more Bangladeshi media – which were mostly silent about Al Jazeera’s report initially – said it was in the national interest to expose those who abuse their position of power.
“After Al Jazeera’s recent sensational talk, the question now on the racetrack is, ‘Whose’ men ‘are? an OpEd said in the daily Prothom-Alo, referring to the documentary, which also claimed that the fortunes of General Aziz and his brothers “have long been linked to” those of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
“Who are the men or whom the man wants to be, is an absolutely personal matter. But there are many men lurking whose identities must be revealed in the interest of the nation,” he said. ‘OpEd, playing on the title of the documentary, “All the Prime Minister’s Men”.
Bangladesh’s foreign ministry and military last week dismissed Al Jazeera’s allegations, with the former calling the report “false and defamatory” and “propaganda” against the country.
The government is reportedly considering legal action against Al Jazeera, New Age, an English-language daily, said in an op-ed.
“[B]But what the government should now come up with is a rebuttal, backed up by credible explanations, if any, of the allegations the report has made, ”the New Age editorial said.
“The government seems to owe the nation some explanation. “