Wednesday 27 July 2016

Justice, Finally, For Rana Plaza?

It's taken years of effort, but last week arrests were finally made that could bring the people behind the Rana Plaza collapse to justice.

A court in Bangladesh has formally charged 38 people with murder in connection with the catastrophic failure of the Rana Plaza building, which killed over 1,000 people back in 2013. The principal accused in the case is the owner, Sohel Rana.

A total of 41 people face charges. Six are still on the run, and will be tried in absentia. Another four are accused of trying to help Rana flee the country. He was arrested after a four-day man-hunt, and was caught attempting to cross the border into India.

The collapse of the Rana Plaza building has been seen by many as the spark that lit new fires under the ethical fashion movement. Dozens of dangerous factories have been closed thanks to the efforts of the Bangladesh Accord On Fire Safety, which was founded as a direct response to the tragedy. New focus has been placed on the clothing factories of Bangladesh, who have wrangled low wages and light-touch safety legislation into a $28bn industry. It's been a boon to millions of Bangladeshi, but the collapse of Rana Plaza, and the less well-known tragedies that came before and still continue around the garment sector are still troubling.

Of course, the notion of justice is meaningless to the families of the Rana Plaza victims, who have lost mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. Without income, they're still waiting for compensation from the multinational brands that allowed Rana and others like him to make huge profits off the backs of exploited workers. You can't put a price on the loss of a beloved family member. It's almost mind-boggling that companies like Gap and Walmart, so clearly implicated, would not step up and do the right thing by these families.

Rana and many of his fellow accused face the death penalty if found guilty of their crimes. You have to wonder, though, how much that really means to the victims of one of Bangladesh's biggest man-made disasters, and whether there can ever be any true sense of closure when it's clear that the companies for whom they made clothing value their lives so cheaply.


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