Human Rights Under an Increasingly Authoritarian Regime – Bangladesh

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by Amir Eden

After having spoken to fellow colleagues from Justice International, one of Justice for A Better World’s charitable organisations, made up of international lawyers, I have come to learn more depth on the story regarding the collapse of the factory building in Bangladesh and the tragic loss of lives.

Justice International expresses its profound concern that the authorities in Bangladesh have dubiously rejected the offer of rescue assistance from other countries, adding to the death toll. This is a manifestation of the government’s lack of care and responsibility for its own citizens and cannot be rationally justified.

With regret, Justice International notes that the government is playing ‘politics’ with people’s lives. The Home Minister for Bangladesh Mr. Mohiuddin Alomgir has previously attributed responsibility for the collapse of the building in which thousands have perished as having been caused by opposition demonstrators. The present regime in Bangladesh has become so distanced from its people in the recent months that any accidents or calamities are quickly attributed to the opposition, against whom the regime has unleashed a sustained campaign of witch-hunts.

In the recent past, when Turkey was visited by earthquakes, international rescue teams from other countries provided much needed help in saving lives. However with the collapse of the factory building in Bangladesh where ill equipped rescue workers are still pulling bodies from debris, both the Home Minister and the country’s foreign minister have refused international help prompted by the UN. The latter is a result of the fact that many of the stakeholders are from the ruling party who have vested financial interests and receive financial inducements, for not implementing safety regulations, such as the owner of the building who is a ruling party ‘strong man’, aided and abetted by the party’s local MP, who is known as the ‘godfather of corruption’ in the area.

After a huge public outcry the prime minister ordered the arrest of the building owner, Suhel Rana. Mr. Rana however has blamed the owners of the garment factories for insisting on operating the morning of the disaster.

“I did not force the owners,” he said, according to bdnews24.com, an online news source in Bangladesh. “It was them who forced me, saying they would face huge losses, and shipments would be cancelled if the factories were closed for even one day.”

But the government has not taken any steps against the factory owners, due to the fact that they are well connected with the ruling party.

Also allegations have been received regarding the many missing workers among the dead bodies removed by trucks in the darkness of night, to avoid further public outrage and legal investigation, which suggests a sinister twist for the rejection of foreign assistance from the international communities.

Colleagues from Justice International further noted, while such reports remain varied, the statement by the country’s foreign minister that ‘everyone responsible’ in this tragedy will be brought to justice, fails to mention her governments own contributory negligence in rejecting rescue assistance from the international communities, which could certainly have saved more lives. For many years factory workers in Bangladesh have been deprived of basic safety and a basic wage. However, the government has persistently adapted double standards; while publicly proclaiming adherence to all existing laws and provisions of workers’ rights, refused to implement laws regulating working conditions and appointing inspectors on the ground.

Justice International acknowledges the good will of those companies sharing in the contribution of compensation for the victims, and calls on the international community to demand that the authorities respect international legal and treaty obligations and ensure there are safe and humane working conditions in factories.

Source: Huffington Post