Sadie Keljikian, Express Trade Capital
Thirteen people, including two garment factory owners, have been charged with culpable homicide in Bangladesh in the aftermath of an industrial factory fire that killed 112 workers back in 2012. An investigation, spurred by the public outcry after the fire, found that there were no fire exits in the building. Owners Delwar Hossain and his wife, Mahmuda Akter, of Dhaka’s Tazreen Fashions were among the group indicted.
The case represents a watershed moment in workers’ rights in Bangladesh, as it marks the first time that garment factory owners have been prosecuted related to workers’ deaths.
The local economy’s reliance on garment exports most likely contributed to the government’s delay in filing charges. Only after the collapse of Rana Plaza, which occurred several months later and killed over 1,130 people, did authorities investigate further.
Investigators’ claim, however, that the delay was caused by the need to interview more than 1,000 people, including factory workers who were injured, government officials and experts.
Although the accused plead not guilty, the fire has put Western brands under significant pressure to ensure safer conditions for the four million garment workers in Bangladesh who typically earn less than $50 a month.
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