Wednesday, 22 December 2010

What is our government doing about abuses in Bangladesh and Kashmir?

Wikileaks is providing a huge public service in highlighting the complicity of governments in human rights abuses, as the latest reports about Bangladesh and Kashmir illustrate.

According to today's Guardian the British government are involved in training what human rights organisations describe as 'Latin American style death squads' in Bangladesh.  The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) has a notorious reputation. It kills and tortures with impunity and, allegedly, is responsible for 1,000 murders in the last 6 years. The Guardian says 'the cables make clear that British training for RAB officers began three years ago under the last Labour government' and that British officials had provided training as recently as October.

Wikileaks also revealed more evidence of 'abductions, enforced disappearances, custodial killings, rape, torture and detention' in Kashmir. Indian journalist Dilnaz Boga rightly asks what it would take for western governments to exert pressure on India over its blatant abuse of human rights.

Outside interference from Pakistan has often been used as a cover to justify human rights abuses in Kashmir but as Dilnaz comments, 'the summer of 2010 brought on a significant change in the Kashmiri struggle for independence from India. From being a pan-Islamic militant movement sponsored by Pakistan in 1989, it has now transformed into a non-violent indigenous people's movement. But the response of the state has not altered since the 1990s'.

For historic reasons Britain has a distinct influence in the region. It is time that influence was used to end human rights abuses rather than begin them.