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FIDH welcomes the charges laid yesterday against 13 people in connection with the Tazreen factory fire in 2012, a positive step towards ensuring the accountability of private actors for factory disasters in Bangladesh. However, FIDH notes with concern that the charges did not include the names of any government inspectors who are allegedly responsible for failing to properly examine the factory’s safety standards.

“Giving immunity to government officials who ignore safety violations reinforces the culture of impunity in Bangladesh, and allows the continuation of the flagrant abuses that permeate Bangladesh’s garment industry,” stated Karim Lahidji, FIDH President.

On Thursday 3 September, 13 people were formally charged over the Tazreen factory fire that occurred on 24 November 2012 killing 112 workers. Those charged included the two factory owners, Delwar Hossain and his wife Mahmuda Akter, along with factory managers and security guards. However, those indicted did not include any government factory inspectors, who allegedly did not perform their scheduled checks of the factory’s safety standards.

Government employees continue to find themselves above the law, which poses a significant obstacle to the proper pursuit of justice in Bangladesh. This is not only the case in the Tazreen fire, but also in several other catastrophes in Bangladesh including the 2010 factory fire in Gazipur, the 2013 building collapse in Savar, the 2013 fire at the Smart Fashions factory, and the 2013 Rana Plaza collapse. In all of these cases, government officials have been accused of allowing dangerous working conditions to prevail under their watch, but no government employee has yet to be charged with any crime relating to these tragedies. One contributing factor to this impunity is the fact that under Bangladeshi law, government ministries must give their approval in order for their employees to be prosecuted. This has permitted ministries to shield their employees from justice when they are accused of gross negligence or consciously permitting the violation of workers’ rights.

FIDH urges the Bangladeshi government to uphold the rule of law through ensuring the accountability of all, including government officials. FIDH also calls upon the the Bangladeshi courts to ensure the highest levels of impartiality and expeditious trials in order to overcome impunity in Bangladesh.