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Bangladesh: High Court Orders Property of Collapsed Building Owner Confiscated

(May 14, 2013) On April 24, 2013, a multi-story building collapsed in Bangladesh, killing over 1,000 people. Five garment factories were operating inside the building, and more than 3,000 people were believed to be working in it when it collapsed. (Julfikar Ali Manik & Jim Yardley, 17 Days in Darkness, a Cry of ‘Save Me,’ and Joy, THE NEW YORK TIMES (May 10, 2013).) According to the Home Minister of Bangladesh, the building was not built in compliance with applicable safety regulations. (Ker Than, Bangladesh Building Collapse Due to Shoddy Construction, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC DAILY NEWS (Apr. 25, 2013).)

The Bangladesh High Court ordered the government to “immediately” confiscate the property of the owner of the building. It also asked the central bank to freeze the assets of the owners of the factories in the building to enable the money to be used to pay the salaries and other benefits of their workers. (Farid Hossain & Julhas Alam, Court Seizes Property to Help Bangladesh Victims, TIME (Apr. 30, 2013).)

The owner of the building is now in custody and may face the death penalty if found guilty of murder or mass manslaughter. (Serajul Quadir & Ruma Paul, Bangladesh Building Owner Faces Murder Complaint over Collapse, REUTERS (May 5, 2013); Bangladesh Penal Code, Act. No. XLV of 1860, Ch. III, § 53 [on punishments], & Ch. XIV, §§ 299-304 [on offenses affecting the human body], LAWS OF BANGLADESH).)

In Bangladesh, death sentences are submitted by the Court of Session to the High Court Division for confirmation. (Bangladesh Code of Criminal Procedure, Act. No. V of 1898, Ch. XXVII, §379, LAWS OF BANGLADESH.) A convicted individual may, as a constitutional right, appeal to the Appellate Division after the High Court issues a death sentence. (The Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, arts. 103(1) & 103(2)(b) (Nov. 4, 1972),LAWS OF BANGLADESH.)

Bangladesh has more than 4,500 garment factories that employ more than four million workers and play a crucial role in the national economy. Accidents, including multiple fires, have been a consistent problem in the garment industry in Bangladesh. The Bangladesh government is still under domestic and international pressure to investigate the November 24, 2012, factory fire that killed over 100 people. (Julfikar Ali Manik & Jim Yardley, Bangladesh Finds Gross Negligence in Factory Fire, THE NEW YORK TIMES (Dec. 17, 2012); Syed Z. Al-Mahmood, Bangladesh Garment Industry Scrambles to Save Reputation After Fires, THE GUARDIAN (Jan. 10, 2013).)