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Bangladesh working on language of US Leahy Law emphasizing safeguards

Bangladesh will give its response to the United States by December 31 highlighting its “safeguards” to strengthen its engagement with the US in the future under the 1961 “Leahy law” keeping the ongoing engagements smooth.

“We’ve got an idea so far, we’re now working on the language emphasizing our safeguards,” Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen told reporters at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday after the second consultation meeting with stakeholders.

The term “Leahy law” refers to two statutory provisions prohibiting the US government from using funds for assistance to units of foreign security forces where there is credible information implicating that unit in the commission of gross violations of human rights (GVHR).

One statutory provision applies to the State Department and the other applies to the Department of Defence.

The State Department Leahy law was made permanent under section 620M of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.

Asked whether Bangladesh is going to sign any agreement with the US on that front, the Foreign Secretary said it is not about signing any agreement separately but kind of expressing Bangladesh’s consent through a framework to keep ongoing engagements smooth and strengthen the future engagements.

He said the US wants a reply in a plain format but Bangladesh wants to reply keeping its safeguards, including a provision of prior consultation if there is any complaint against any organization so that necessary steps can be taken beforehand.

The US also wants credible information and in that case Bangladesh would like to know the sources of credible information.

If prior consultation is ensured before taking any decision, Bangladesh will get sufficient time to explain its position, said the Foreign Secretary.

He said Bangladesh is continuing its consultations with various stakeholders on how the US assistance will be used in the future and securitizing the benefits to get engaged under the 1961 US law and checking whether there is anything conflicting.

The Foreign Secretary said the two countries share the same goals as Bangladesh maintains zero tolerance to heinous crimes and terrorism with its strong commitment to human rights issues.

The US government considers torture, extrajudicial killing, enforced disappearance, and rape under color of law as GVHRs when implementing the Leahy law.

Incidents are examined on a fact-specific basis. The State Department Leahy law includes an exception permitting resumption of assistance to a unit if the Secretary of State determines and reports to Congress that the government of the country is taking effective steps to bring the responsible members of the security forces unit to justice.

In the first week of this month, the US sent a letter to Bangladesh seeking Bangladesh’s response by December 15. Later, Bangladesh sought time till December 31 to reply.

Officials of the ministries, departments and agencies concerned were present at the meeting.

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