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Bangladesh: Violent crackdown on Factory Workers’ Strike Demonstrate Continued Backsliding on Human Rights

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(Bangkok, 8 August 2014) – The Bangladeshi security force’s violent dispersal of a hunger strike by over a thousand workers at the Tuba group of factories on 6 August 2014 has been slammed by the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) as the latest in a long list of recent violations of the rights to freedom of assembly and of association by the Government of Bangladesh.

Taking the Government to task for its “blatant disregard for national and international human rights and labour standards”, the regional human rights group urged the Government of Bangladesh to take immediate steps, including by holding all perpetrators of the crackdown accountable and urgently establishing an oversight mechanism for security forces, to ensure that the fundamental right to freedom of assembly and association of workers and human rights defenders are respected at all times. FORUM-ASIA also called on the Government to take immediate and effective steps to address the grievances of the workers.

Over a thousand Tuba factory workers had been on hunger strike since 28 July 2014 against the non-payment of three months wages and overtime dues when security forces surrounded the factory on 6 August 2014, violently dispersing the assembly with the use of batons, water cannons, tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets.Several workers were injured and leaders of the strike were detained. During the hunger strike, water supply, electricity and access to doctors providing saline were also reportedly disrupted.

The unwarranted and often disproportionate use of force by the security forces on assemblies in Bangladesh has remained a consistent concern, and this latest incident only reaffirms our observation of Bangladesh’s continued backsliding in this regard. The attack on workers, who were legitimately defending their basic rights, urgently calls for proper regulations and oversight on security forces to ensure the compliance of all security personnel with international human rights norms and standards,” said Evelyn Balais-Serrano, Executive Director, FORUM-ASIA.

Violations of the rights of garment factory workers has been a long standing issue in Bangladesh and the subject of intense international attention and scrutiny. Numerous cases, including this latest crackdown, according to FORUM-ASIA, has demonstrated the Government of Bangladesh’s failure to adequately address and safeguard the rights of workers guaranteed under national and international labour and human rights instruments.

The Government has the obligation to ensure that the rights of workers are protected at all times, including from abuses committed by corporate entities. Despite this, not only has the Government failed to address the grievances of the workers whose rights have been violated, it has further brutally cracked down on the workers’ legitimate means to seek recourse,” stressed Balais-Serrano.

Trade union activists and human rights defenders protesting alongside the workers, including Shabnam Hafiz, Quamr Ul Hasan, Moshrefa Mishu and Joly Taludker were detained temporarily and released later in the evening of 6 August 2014.

Reprisals against human rights defenders is a serious issue and the lack of accountability emboldens the security forces to act in a high handed manner. The Government must take firm and immediate steps to hold all security personnel involved in the crackdown accountable, and end its increasing attacks on human rights defenders,” urged Balais-Serrano, while calling for the Government to recognise the legitimate work of human rights defenders in the country.


FORUM-ASIA is a regional human rights group with 47 member organisations in 16 countries across Asia. With offices in Bangkok, Jakarta and Geneva, FORUM-ASIA addresses key areas of human rights violations in the region, including freedoms of expression, assembly and association, human rights defenders, and democratisation.

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