Murder of Bangladesh Labour Leader Sparks Outrage

Bangladesh authorities should ensure an independent and transparent investigation into the murder of union leader Shahidul Islam, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on July 6. Islam, who was president of the Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation Gazipur district committee, was beaten to death on June 25, 2023, after he visited a factory in Gazipur to secure unpaid wages for the factory’s workers.

Scores of workers staged a demonstration to protest the murder.
“The Bangladesh government is yet to act comprehensively to end continuing violations of garment workers’ rights, including anti-union tactics by managers and assaults on union organizers, Human Rights Watch said. The United States and European Union have both linked Bangladesh’s continued access to trade preferences to making urgent improvements in labor rights and workplace safety”, HRW said.

Another human rights organization Frontline Defenders said, “the killing of Shahidul Islam is indicative of the violations and unjust treatment faced by garment workers in Bangladesh. His death also reflects on the vulnerability and dangers faced by human rights defenders who raise their voices on the lack of transparency regarding workers’ rights and work to safeguard labour rights in Bangladesh.”

Police said Shahidul Islam, president of the Gazipur branch of the Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation, was beaten to death after issuing an ultimatum to factory owners over unpaid wages.

Garment factories account for more than 80 percent of Bangladesh’s exports of more than $52 billion. Rights groups say trade union leaders are often subject to violence and harassment by police and factory owners.

In 2012, the body of BCWS trade union organiser Aminul Islam was found with apparent signs of torture, under circumstances that Human Rights Watch said raised suspicions about the involvement of security forces. A labour leader was sentenced to death in absentia for the murder six years later.

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