Bangladesh Court Orders Action against Tazreen Fire Factory Owner

By Reuters 20 May 2013

DHAKA — A Bangladesh court on Sunday banned the owner of a garment factory that was destroyed in a fire in November from leaving the country as anger builds up over a string of deadly incidents in which thousands have died.

The high court in Dhaka also directed that Delwar Hossain, owner of Tazreen Fashion, appear before it on May 30 to explain the circumstances in which 112 workers, mostly women, died in the fire on the outskirts of the capital last year.

At the time, a Reuters photographer found in the charred remains at the site of the fire clothes that were labeled for—among other big-brand retailers—Wal-Mart, Sears Holdings and Walt Disney.

The court action in response to a public interest petition comes after more than 1,100 people were killed in a building collapse in another suburb of Dhaka that housed garment workers, sparking a global outcry about safety standards in Bangladesh’s booming $20 billion garment industry.

Nine people have been arrested including the owner of the building for that accident, the world’s deadliest industrial disaster after the Bhopal gas leak accident in India in 1984.

Jyotirmoy Barua, a lawyer who appeared on behalf of the petitioners, said the court ordered the government to issue a red alert at all border crossings to ensure Hossain did not leave the country.

The court also asked the government to explain why it had not taken any action against the factory owner even after a committee set up to inquire the fire called for the arrest of the owner and his wife for negligence.

Hossain could not be immediately reached but he said at the time of the fire that it was a case of sabotage.

Bangladesh, which has emerged the world’s second biggest exporter of clothing after China, has had an average of one accident each year since 2000 but there is a culture of impunity, activists say.

“Since 1990 such inhuman incidents become a normal thing in the garments sector and as the owners are the powerful and wealthy people in society, they do not face any punishment,” petitioner Saydia Gulrukh Kamal.