Six US Congressmen have brought allegations of human rights violations against the current Bangladesh government and called on President Joe Biden to take action to create opportunities for free and fair parliamentary elections in the country.
"We request urgent action to stop the human rights abuses by the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazad of Bangladesh, and to give the people of Bangladesh the best possible chance for free and fair parliamentary elections to be scheduled this fall," read the letter, published by Bob Good, one of the six congressmen, on his official website on Friday (2 June).
Along with Good, Congressmen Scott Perry, Barry Moore, Tim Burchett, Warren Davidson and Keith Self signed the letter. All six congressmen belong to the Republican Party.
The letter said since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina "assumed power in January 2009, examples of human rights violations by her government have been documented by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, United Nations and other organisations and NGOs in their reports."
"The well-documented abuses by the Hasina government are not confined to her political opponents; the government also has persecuted ethnic and religious minorities in Bangladesh," the letter said.
"Since Sheikh Hasina's rise to power, the Hindu population has been halved. Looting and burning of households, destruction of temples and religious idols, murder, rape, and forced religious conversion are causing Hindus to flee Bangladesh," it added.
The six US congressmen further said in the letter: "Sheikh Hasina's government also has persecuted Bangladesh's minority Christian population burning and looting places of worship, jailing pastors, and breaking up families when religious conversion occurs."
"In recent months, tens of thousands of peaceful protesters have demonstrated for fair and free elections, which are the people's only hope for a change in the Hasina government," the letter read.
The congressmen deemed the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) as, "the major perpetrator of torture, disappearances, and extra-judicial killings in Bangladesh" and accused it of arresting, intimidating, and killing demonstrators.
"The RAB has been characterized as a government 'Death Squad' by numerous NGO including Human Rights Watch," the letter said.
"In a recent investigation by German state broadcaster DW and Sweden-based news agency Netra News, two whistleblowers and former members of the RAB, confessed that these incidents of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances could not be possible without the Home Minister and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's approval," it added.
Harkening to the US sanctions on RAB, the letter said, "The US government designated RAB a 'serious human rights abuser' more than a year ago and sanctioned several law enforcement authorities responsible for many of the killings and other atrocities. Yet, the Hasina regime has only intensified its systemic repression of the people of Bangladesh since sanctions were imposed. The sanctions by the US have not done enough to slow the flagrant human rights violations and democratic backsliding of Sheikh Hasina's government."
"In addition to crimes against their own people, Hasina's misconduct encourages other bad actors in South Asia to make common alliance, and hurts America's national security interests as they gang together and draw closer to China and Russia," the letter to Joe Biden further said.
The six congressmen concluded their letter requesting President Joe Biden to take "appropriate measures to give Bangladesh their best chance for free elections, including stricter individual sanctions, banning Bangladesh law enforcement and military personnel from participating in UN peacekeeping missions."