image: H&M

image: H&M

A court in Bangladesh agreed on Monday to put over forty defendants on trial for murder charges over the April 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza, which injured over two thousand people and killed 1,135 workers, many of them were women and children making garments for Western retailers, according to court officials. Forty-one defendants in total face charges over the disaster at the industrial complex, which housed a number of garment factories responsible for supplying garments and accessories for global fast fashion brands. Plaza owner Sohel Rana is the principal accused. Rana, who was charged with murder this June after attempting to flee Bangladesh and ultimately being found by authorities in hiding, is in jail. 16 of his co-accused are on bail and the remaining 24 have absconded. The court issued arrest warrants for them on Monday.

According to Reuters, shortly after the collapse, a former chief engineer of the state-run Capital Development Authority confirmed that Rana had not received proper consent for the building, and that an additional three stories had also been added illegally.

The collapse of Rana Plaza, which was home to suppliers to retailers including H&M, Joe Fresh, Primark, and Mango, among others and which was built on swampy ground outside the capital Dhaka, ranks amongst the world’s worst industrial accidents, and sparked an outcry for greater safety in the world’s second-largest country exporter of ready-made garments. On the heels of the tragedy, Vogue’s Dolly Jones penned an article, writing: “Subsequent headlines detailed untold horrors: illegally run, poorly-built factories, desperately bad pay, foul mistreatment of (mainly female, often underage) workers and a system of mind-numbingly slow bureaucracy which would prevent compensation getting to the survivors,” Jones writes. And shortly after the building collapsed, within days, really, rioters and protesters began demanding safer working conditions and compensation for survivors, among other things.” Unfortunately, not much has changed in Bangladesh by way of safety or labor standards. 

The Rana Plaza tragedy came just six months after more than 111 workers were killed in a fire at Tazreen Fashion Ltd, a factory in the Ashulia district of Dhaka in Bangladesh, and about four months after 7 were killed and more than 50 were injured after a fire at the Smart Export garment factory in Bangladesh, which reportedly make clothes for Zara’s parent company, Inditex.