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Concerns raised against criminal charges against victims of Bangladesh boiler explosion

Labor Rights Groups have raised concerns after news emerged that local authorities in Bangladesh had filed a criminal complaint against ten people following the boiler explosion at the Multifabs garment factory in Bangladesh on July 3.

The criminal complaint accuses ten unnamed workers involved in the accident of negligence of duty, injury, and murder, even though an inquiry into the causes of the explosion has yet to be finished. The only three individuals named in the complaint were killed in the explosion.

Clean Clothes Campaign, Maquila Solidarity Network, International Labor Rights Forum and Worker Rights Consortium argue that the filing of criminal charges against workers who died in in the accident is "an abuse of power by the police, which shifts attention away from the responsibilities of the owner under Bangladesh Labor Law."

The Labor Rights Group added that the owner of the factory was already issued a notice and fine of 20,000 BDT for running a boiler without clearance, which was already expired. "This criminal case against the workers and excluding the employer is an alarming attempt to blame the victims." In addition, it seems highly unlikely that the police could have completed a serious investigation into the incident in the span of a day, making the criminal charges preemptive.

The charges, which seek to scapegoat the victims, are also likely to impede any through investigation, led to an unfair judgment of the workers and add to the pain of the grieving families of the deceased workers. "Instead of blaming the victims of this disaster, the authorities should be focused on conducting an independent, transparent and thorough investigation of the real causes of the explosion," added the statement from the labor rights groups.

"An equally pressing priority is to compensate the families of the deceased and to ensure full medical care and compensation for those injured." The labor rights groups added that the accident underlines the real need for boiler safety to be included in the Accord on Fire and Building Safety, which inspects and oversees the safety renovations of nearly 1600 factories in Bangladesh, including Multifabs.

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