Labour Rights Activists Arrested in Bangladesh
Unsubstantiated charges of fomenting worker unrest
On Thursday 13th August 2010, leaders of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity (BCWS) were arrested at 2:00 am in Dhaka by twenty armed police.
A coalition of labour rights groups around the world, include the Clean Clothes Campaign Europe - of which Ethical Consumer is a member - called on the Government of Bangladesh to immediately release the leaders and drop the unsubstantiated charges against them. The groups also expressed grave concern for their safety in light of Bangladeshi authorities’ record of torturing detainees.
Kalpona Akter, Babul Akhter and Aminul Islam were released on 10th September after spending 30 days in custody. However, they still face the charges brought against them by the government of Bangladesh. Furthermore, the BCWS’s non-governmental registration has yet to be restored and the organization is still not functioning. Stay tuned to the Clean Clothes Campaign for further updates and action requests.
BCWS is one of the most prominent human-rights organisations working to improve conditions in the Bangladesh garment export sector, the country’s leading industry. It conducts worker rights training and legal and public advocacy to improve labour practices. Kalpona Akter, the organisation’s Executive Director, is a former child labourer herself. Babul Ahkter is the organisation’s Vice-Director.
The BCWS leaders were arrested on unsubstantiated charges of fomenting worker unrest. This seems to be part of a strategy by the Government of Bangladesh to deal with recent riots among garment workers by scapegoating peaceful worker advocates rather than addressing the true underlying cause of such turmoil: the country’s poor pay and working conditions. At 20 cents per hour, Bangladesh has by far the lowest wages of any major clothes producing country. Since the Banglasdesh garment industry mushroomed in the 1990's, numerous fires and collapsing factory buildings have killed scores of workers.
The arrest of BCWS’ leaders was the latest in an escalating government campaign against the organisation. On June 3, the NGO Affairs Bureau canceled BCWS’ NGO registration and ordered that its property be confiscated and its bank accounts frozen. Less than two weeks later, a member of the organisation’s staff, Aminul Islam, was detained by security forces and severely beaten before managing to escape.
For more information on this story visit www.cleanclothes.org/urgent-actions