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Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity regains legal status

September 16, 2013

(Above: Babul Akhter and Kalpona Akter, BCWS. Photo: Tula Connell, AFL-CIO Solidarity Centre)

Thanks to international solidarity from trade union and labour rights organizations around the world, as well as pressure from the U.S Department of Labor, the NGO Affairs Bureau of Bangladesh (NAB) has restored the legal status of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity (BCWS).

The BCWS has been persecuted by the Bangladesh government for its support of the rights of workers in the country’s garment export industry. On June 3, 2010, the NAB revoked BCWS’s status amidst a larger delegitimization campaign against the organization that involved trumped up charges and the arrest of three of its leaders, one of whom, Aminul Islam, was tortured and killed two years later.

Since these events, trade union and human and labour rights groups, including MSN have mounted pressure on the U.S. Congress, as well as the Canadian government, to support an independent investigation of Islam’s murder and to end the repression against the BCWS.

At the urging of MSN and other labour rights groups, a number of major apparel brands sourcing from Bangladesh also supported the call for an investigation and for the reinstatement of BCWS’ legal status.

Significantly, one of the conditions stipulated by the U.S government for the resumption of Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) trade benefits to Bangladesh (which were suspended in late June largely because of the country’s poor labour rights record) was that the BCWS’ NGO status be reinstated and that a full investigation of the torture and murder of Aminul Islam be carried out. Canada’s General Preferences Tariff (GPT) system does not include any labour rights conditionality.

We are pleased to announce that according to Bangladeshi news sources, all of the bogus legal charges against BCWS staff have been dropped. Although three of these cases continue to be listed as active, the hope is that they will be resolved within the coming weeks.  It remains to be seen, however, if Bangladeshi authorities will comply with the second condition to adequately investigate Islam’s murder.