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No significant progress in trial six years after Tazreen Fashions fire

  • Published at 10:32 pm November 23rd, 2018
Tazreen Fashions Ltd
File Photo: Smoke billowing from the Tazreen Fashions Ltd RMG factory in Nishchintapur, Ashulia on November 24, 2012 Courtesy

On November 24, 2012, a fire at the Tazreen Fashions Ltd factory in Nishchintapur, Ashulia killed 112 workers and injured 200 others

There has been no significant progress in the trial of the case filed over the devastating fire at the garments factory of Tazreen Fashions Ltd, despite six years having passed since the incident.

Various rights organizations and families of victims are set to observe the 6th anniversary of the Tazreen Fashions tragedy on Saturday, but justice is still a far cry for survivors and the victims’ family members.

On November 24, 2012, a fire at the Tazreen Fashions Ltd factory in Nishchintapur, Ashulia killed 112 workers and injured 200 others.

Rights activists said survivors and families of victims are yet to receive compensation promised by the authorities concerned, even after six years.

Urging the government to ensure justice for the victims and their families, human rights activist Saydia Gulrukh told the Dhaka Tribune: “The trials of many cases filed over recent incidents have been completed, but the trial in the Tazreen Fashion Ltd fire case is not progressing due to the negligence of the government.”

According to court sources, the case is still pending with the Dhaka First Additional District and Sessions Judges’ Court due to the failure of the prosecution to produce witnesses, the slow pace of the trial, and “negligence” of prosecution lawyers.

The trial began on September 3, 2015. A total 13 people are accused in the case, including Tazreen Fashions Ltd owner and Managing director Delwar Hossain, and his wife and Tazreen Fashions Ltd Chairman Mahmuda Akhter.

The other accused are Shahiduzzaman Dulal, Mahbubul Morshed, Hamidul Islam, Md Al Amin, Md Al Amin (2), Anisur Rahman, Abdur Razzak, Md Rana, Shamim Miah, Dulal uddin, and Mobarak Hossain Monju. All were top officials and employees at the RMG factory.

Since the trial began, the court has recorded depositions of only 12 prosecution witnesses. Although the court has repeatedly set new dates for recording witness testimonies, the prosecution has continually failed to produce the witnesses before the court.

Court sources said most of the witnesses in the case are RMG workers. After the fire, many of the witnesses joined new factories and moved to new locations, and law enforcement agencies were unable to find them at their previous addresses.

There have also been allegations that the accused convinced the poverty-stricken workers not to testify before the court, by providing them with financial benefits or new employment.

Additional Public Prosecutor Shahnara Yeasmin said: “The witnesses may have been persuaded by the accused, as they are not coming to the court for depositions.”

Furthermore, many of the witness statements which had been recorded by the court did not match the statements they had earlier given to the police under Section 161 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, she added.

Rights activists said the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and foreign buyers, who were supposed to stand by the victims’ families and provide financial support, have done little to help. With delays in the trial as well, survivors and family members of victims have grown frustrated. 

According to the charge sheet, Delwar and his wife constructed the Tazreen Fashions Ltd factory building using a faulty plan with the help of an engineer, and illegally used its ground-floor walkway as a warehouse.

It further said there was no fire exit at the factory, even though a provision of labour law stipulates that there must be at least two exits at every factory.

 “The factory was built a mile away from the main road, making it very difficult for fire service vehicles to enter the factory compound,” the charge sheet added.

Managers and security guards of the factory have been indicted in the case, as they asked the panicked workers get back to work when smoke was billowing from the building and the fire alarm had rang.