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41 Factory Owners, Safety Officials Charged with Murder in Rana Plaza Tragedy

Image credit: Amir Abdullah/European Pressphoto Agency

On Monday, Bangladeshi police charged 41 people, including the owner of the Rana Plaza complex, with murder over the 2013 factory collapse that killed more than 1,100 people.

According to Business Insider, the Chief Judicial Magistrate's Court in Dhaka has formally accepted a charge sheet from police against Sohel Rana, owner of the complex; his parents, the owners of several factories in the building; and at least a dozen government officials in connection with the collapse, according to state prosecutor, Anwarul Kabir.

"We've charged 41 people including the owner of the building, Sohel Rana, with murder over the collapse of Rana Plaza in April 2013," lead investigator Bijoy Krishna Kar told AFP, adding that all will face the death penalty if convicted.

"It is the biggest industrial disaster in Bangladesh's history. And all 41 of them have collective responsibility for this mass killing of more than 1,100 innocent people," Kar said.

Model and activist
Amber Valletta
will discuss her efforts
to clean up fashion
tonight at
SB '15 San Diego

According to the New York Times, a high-level state report released in 2013 found that the building was constructed with substandard materials in violation of building codes, and recommended bringing formal charges against Rana, along with the owners of five factories in the complex. According to the report, owners of the factories urged employees to return to work even after an engineer inspected the building the day before the collapse and deemed it unsafe.

Rana, who was reportedly arrested on the western border with India as he tried to flee the country days after the disaster, became Bangladesh's public enemy number one after survivors recounted how thousands of them were forced to enter the compound at the start of the working day on April 24, despite complaints about cracks appearing in the walls.

The ensuing disaster propelled the appalling working conditions and safety issues in Bangladesh's $25 billion garment industry — the world's second largest after China's — into the global spotlight. The tragedy immediately mobilized a host of brands to confront working conditions in factories and agree to sweeping safety reforms — including the ILO-supported Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, backed by H&M, M&S, Benetton and Inditex, and the Bangladesh Worker Safety Initiative, conceived by Walmart, Gap and Target — and the Obama Administration to suspend trade privileges extended to Bangladesh as a result of the country's neglect of workers' rights.

Yet, two years later, there is still much work to be done in order to make them tenable for the thousands of textile workers in developing areas around the world.

And the new visibility into the issue has spawned consumer-awareness and activism campaigns such as Fashion Revolution Day, hard-hitting web series such as Thread and Sweatshop, and documentaries such as The True Cost, released just last week; now that consumers have been alerted to the conditions rampant in the world of “fast fashion,” the onus is on brands to use their buying power to not only ensure that such a tragedy never happens again, but that conditions dramatically improve for those who make our clothing around the world.

In the meantime, the arrests, potential indictments and prosecution of those responsible for the unsafe conditions on the ground set a game-changing precedent.

Jennifer Elks is Managing Editor at Sustainable Brands. She is a writer, editor and foodie who is passionate about improving food systems, closing loops and creating more livable cities. She loves cooking, wine, cooking with wine, correcting spelling errors in… [Read more about Jennifer Elks]

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