US embassy cables: UK police trained Bangladeshi paramilitaries condemned for human rights abuses

December 21, 2010

SUMMARY: Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), a paramilitary force condemned repeatedly for human rights abuses, was favoured by both the US and UKgovernments as a counter-terrorism partner. Despite its human rights record, including accusations of committing extra-judicial killings, the RAB received training, some of it delivered by serving British police officers, in “investigative interviewing techniques and rules of engagement”. In another passage, theUK and US are keen to see a standard curriculum introduced in Bangladesh madrassahs. Key passages highlighted in yellow

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 DHAKA 000482
EO 12958 DECL: 05/13/2019
Classified By: Ambassador James F. Moriarty. Reasons: 1.4 (b) and (d)




1. (C) The U.S. and the United Kingdom share common counterterrorism goals in Bangladeshand we have worked together on specific issues in the past. Embassy Dhaka and the British High Commission reviewed our efforts and agreed on several areas of cooperation at an inaugural counterterrorism quarterly meeting. Specifically, we agreed trying to arrange a visit to London and Washington for senior Bangladeshi officials to view both countries’ national security systems. The missions also agreed to work closely on human rights training for the paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and on promoting curriculum reform at Bangladesh’s unregulated madrassas. The missions identified several other areas in which coordinated action could promote badly needed security sector reform in Bangladesh.

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2. (SBU) British High Commissioner Stephen Evans and Ambassador Moriarty led an inaugural counterterrorism quarterly meeting between our two missions on May 13. Although members of the two missions have met individually to discuss counterterrorism issues and work together on specific projects, this forum provided an opoprtunity to discuss broad goals and develop strategies to work collaboratively. Several common areas of interest quickly emerged, most prominently the desire to promote security sector reform in Bangladesh. Evans said this would be the center of discussion at an inaugural Joint Working Group meeting on counterterrorism between Britain and Bangladesh, led by British Security Minister Lord West, in late June, and promised a quick read-out of the results to the Embassy.

3. (SBU) Perhaps the key element of security sector reform is building a healthier civil-military relationship. The dysfunctional relationship dates from the numerous coups in Bangladesh’s early years and was recently exacerbated by the February 25-26 border guard mutiny against army officers. The Ambassador detailed Post’s plans to invite senior Bangladeshi officials to participate in an Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies workshop in November to exchange views on civil-military relations and national security systems. The two missions agreed the workshop would be most effective if a Bangladeshi delegation of military, government and Parliament representatives first visited the U.S. and the United Kingdom to learn about our national security structures. The missions will seek a visit in September; Post will work with SCA to ensure the Washington leg includes visits to Capitol Hill, the Department of Defense, the State Department and the National Security Council.

4. (C) We agreed to jointly engage Bangladesh’s newly formed National Committee on Militancy Resistance and Prevention, a high-level group led by Home Affairs State Minister Tanjim Ahmad Sohel Taj, who has worked closely with the Embassy on security issues. Local media has reported the committee will focus in part on anti-extremism messaging, an area in which both missions already are actively engaged and can work more cooperatively. The U.S. and United Kingdom also agreed to jointly sound out the Government of Bangladesh on its post-mutiny reorganization plans for the Bangladesh Rifles and then work together to help make it a more effective border patrol force.




5. (SBU) The U.S. and UK representatives reviewed our ongoing training to make the RAB a more transparent, accountable and human-rights compliant paramilitary force. The British have been training RAB for 18 months in areas such as investigative interviewing techniques and rules of engagement. They said that the training had been widely disseminated within RAB and that they were undertaking an assessment of its effectiveness. The Embassy described plans

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to imbed two U.S. marshals within RAB for three months to help set up internal affairs, use of force and rules of engagement systems. High Commissioner Evans suggested the marshals stop in London on the way to Bangladesh to meet with British police who have delivered human rights training to RAB. He said the visit would ensure maximum coordination between the U.S. and British programs; the Ambassador enthusiastically supported the proposal.

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6. (C) Evans promised to send the Embassy a “lessons learned” document from a just-concluded combined British-Bangladesh maritime security exercise in which U.S. Department of Defense personnel participated. He noted the U.K. did not expect to have any more Royal Navy ships visit Bangladesh before 2011 and asked whether the United States could take the lead in organizing a follow-up exercise. With the U.S. and Britain both ramping up programs to develop community policing, we agreed to create an informal consultative group led by the British that would include other international missions in Dhaka with policing projects. The two missions also agreed to have their two development agencies, USAID and the U.K. Department for International Development, meet to discuss strategies for supporting Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s plan to develop standardized curriculum for thousands of unregulated Islamic madrassa schools. (Note: The Embassy has submitted a 1207 proposal for a madrassa curriculum development program. End note). Finally, noting the horrendous safety gaps at Dhaka’s international airport, the Ambassador and High Commissioner agreed to sound out contacts within their respective governments, the international airlines that serve Dhaka, and the Bangladeshi state airline to determine how best to improve security.




7. (C) The inaugural U.S.-British quarterly meeting provided each side with a much better understanding of what the other was doing to counter terrorism and extremism in Bangladesh. Not surprisingly, our counterterrorism strategies and goals are closely aligned, allowing ample room for close coordination and, in some cases, joint programs. Given that Sheikh Hasina’s new government has made security a top priority, the chances of U.S.-British joint efforts bearing fruit are high indeed. MORIARTY

Source: The Guardian