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RAB TRAINING:UK govt faces legal challenge

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  • Isha Khan
    RAB TRAINING UK govt faces legal challenge Dhaka, Dec 24 (bdnews24.com) — The UK government faces a legal challenge to its support for Bangladesh s
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 24, 2010
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      UK govt faces legal challenge

      Dhaka, Dec 24 (bdnews24.com) — The UK government faces a legal
      challenge to its support for Bangladesh's anti-crime elite force Rapid
      Action Battalion (Rab).

      Lawyers are to seek a judicial review of the legality of training
      assistance provided to Rab, arguing that it places the UK in breach of
      its obligations under international law.

      The legal challenge is being mounted by Phil Shiner of Public Interest
      Lawyers, which represents the family of Baha Mousa, the Iraqi hotel
      receptionist tortured to death by British troops in 2003, according to
      a report run by The Guardian.

      Members of Rab have been held responsible for hundreds of
      extrajudicial killings since the unit was established in 2004. The
      unit itself admits to being responsible for more than 600 deaths,
      which it euphemistically attributes to 'crossfire'.

      Dhaka has resisted pressure to disband the unit, as influential
      British newspaper The Guardian reported, with one government minister
      declaring last year: "The government will need to continue with
      extrajudicial killings, commonly 'called crossfire'."

      Details of British support for Rab were revealed in US embassy cables
      released by WikiLeaks and reported by the Guardian on Wednesday.

      bdnews24.com was the first to run the news in Bangladesh.

      They show that the government has been providing training in
      'investigative interviewing techniques' and 'rules of engagement'.

      At least some of the training has been provided by serving police
      officers who travelled to Bangladesh under the auspices of the
      National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA), a body established three
      years ago to promote good practice in UK policing and share it with
      overseas police.

      In a letter to the Foreign Office and Home Office, Phil Shiner of
      Public Interest Lawyers alleged that the UK had 'aided and assisted
      Bangladesh in breaching peremptory norms of customary international
      law'. The UK must withdraw its support for Rab, conduct a prompt
      investigation and possibly pay compensation to the unit's victims.

      Shiner said: "The British public by now should be sick of our
      governments' hypocritical approach to torture and unlawful killings.
      It pretends to condemn both, but in practice it aids and assists
      states that they know are violating these basic rights. This
      represents a serious violation of international law."

      The British Foreign Office has defended the training as 'fully in line
      with our laws and our values'. A spokesman sought to suggest it was
      providing only 'human rights training' for Rab, although NPIA says
      other training has been given, and Rab's head of training told the
      Guardian he was unaware of any human rights training since he was
      appointed last June.

      NPIA asked whether it was appropriate for British police to be
      training members of "a government death squad", and whether courses in
      investigative interviewing techniques might not render torture more
      effective, and said the support had been approved by the government
      and the Association of Chief Police Officers.

      Rab officers say they received British assistance as recently as last
      October, five months into the coalition government.

      The leaked cables make clear that the United States believed Rab would
      be an ideal partner in counter-terrorism operations, but was unable to
      offer the sort of assistance the British have been providing because
      of the US law, which prohibits training or financial support to
      overseas military units responsible for gross human rights abuses.

      Complaints about British support for Rab are to be raised at a human
      rights advice group established last month by William Hague, the
      foreign secretary. Sapna Malik, a lawyer and member of the group,
      said: "The reports make for very disturbing reading and I intend to
      raise this issue at the foreign secretary's advisory group on human

      Human Rights Watch, the New York-based NGO that has been condemning
      Rab as a death squad for more than four years, said the UK should
      withdraw its support immediately.

      Meenakshi Ganguly, the group's South Asia director, told the
      Associated Press: "Criminals should be arrested, prosecuted and
      punished, not randomly picked up and killed in an effort to put an end
      to the activities of which they are suspected. The UK and the US
      should stop their co-operation unless there are immediate and visible
      efforts to reform Rab, and hold those responsible for human rights
      violations to account."

      Human rights activists say they were particularly dismayed to learn of
      the British support for Rab, as the unit enjoys a degree of popular
      support in Bangladesh, and is likely to be disbanded only as a result
      of pressure from other governments. They argue that British support
      lends a degree of legitimacy to Rab and to the methods it employs.

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