Bangladesh Reinstates Garment Worker Rights Group

The Bangladesh government has re-registered the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity (BCWS), a move that means the organization can fully function again and pursue its mission of educating workers about their rights.

The Bangladesh government revoked the organization’s registration in 2010 and arrested its leaders, Babul Akhter, Kalpona Akter and Aminul Islam, on criminal charges following protests by garment workers against unsafe working conditions and poverty-level wages. All three, who were held in custody and later released, say they were tortured in prison. In 2012, Aminul’s body was found dozens of miles from his home, severely beaten and tortured.

The government last month dropped charges against Babul and Kalpona and announced it would step up the search for the people who tortured and murdered Aminul. All these actions follow the decision by the U.S. government in June to suspend preferential trade benefits with Bangladesh because of chronic and severe labor rights violations. The Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) reduced tariff benefits agreement is worth $34.7 million a year for Bangladesh.

Despite international outcry, including a U.S. congressional hearing and then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s call for justice in the case, Aminul’s murder has gone unsolved. He had sought to improve the working conditions of some 8,000 garment workers employed by Shanta Group, a garment manufacturer based in Dhaka.

Since his murder, two massive garment factory disasters in Bangladesh have killed more than 1,000 workers, including the April building collapse of Rana Plaza, where 1,133 were killed. On Thursday, another garment worker Monwar Hossain, 22, died from his injuries at Rana Plaza. In the past eight months, there have been more than 40 fire and fire-related incidents at Bangladesh garment factories, according to data compiled by Solidarity Center staff in Dhaka, the capital.