Law Minister Anisul Huq has said that the US sanctions on the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and its seven current and former officials on charges of human rights abuses are "fictitious".
He said it was "extremely unfortunate" to issue such a notice without offering any opportunity to defend the counterparties.
The minister also denied the allegations of over 600 extrajudicial killings and nearly 600 cases of disappearance in Bangladesh since 2009, while responding to reporters' questions after inaugurating a workshop at the Judicial Administration Training Institute on Sunday.
Earlier on Friday, the US Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed sanctions on a total of 10 organisations and 15 individuals from various countries, including Bangladesh, who were found to have been involved in human rights abuses and repression.
Of the organisations and individuals, RAB, its former director general and current police chief Benazir Ahmed and RAB's current chief Chowdhury Abdullah Al-Mamun face the US ban under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, EO 13818 citing "serious human rights abuse relating to their tenure."
The others sanctioned are:
- Chowdhury Abdullah Al-Mamun, DG, RAB, 15 April, 2020 to present
- Khan Mohammad Azad, additional director general (operations), RAB, 16 March , 2021 to present
- Tofayel Mustafa Sorwar, former additional director general (operations), RAB, 27 June, 2019 to 16 March, 2021
- Mohammad Jahangir Alam, former additional director general (operations), RAB, 17 September, 2018 to 27 June, 2019
- Mohammad Anwar Latif Khan, former additional director general (operations), RAB, 28 April, 2016 to 17 September, 2018
Due to the sanctions, they will not get a US visa, and may even have their assets in the United States confiscated.
It is the first time individuals or entities from Bangladesh have been the subject of US sanctions.
Following the sanction order, a media release from the foreign ministry said that Bangladesh has expressed dissatisfaction to the US ambassador over the ban on police and RAB chiefs.
Ambassador Miller told the foreign secretary that he would convey the Bangladesh government's concerns to Washington, added the media statement.
Later on Saturday, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said it will depend on the United States whether there will be any impact on Dhaka-Washington relations following sanctions on RAB and individuals.
The measures are the latest in a raft of sanctions timed to coincide with Biden's two-day virtual Summit for Democracy that ended 10 December. Bangladesh was not invited to the summit attended by over 100 global leaders.
Apart from the US, Canada and the United Kingdom also issued sanctions on Myanmar top officials related to human rights abuse, while Washington imposed the first new sanctions on North Korea since Joe Biden came into power.
The sanctions targeted Myanmar military entities, among others, in action marking Human Rights Day.