Bangladesh: government responsible, not only companies, after Rana Plaza disaster

The recent Rana Plaza building disaster, in Bangladesh, could, and should, have been averted if the government had performed its obligation to adequately protect the workers, the ICJ said today.

“The Rana Plaza collapse, which killed 1,131 workers and injured close to 2,500 others, is the most recent in a long list of industrial disasters brought about by the government’s failure to regulate and monitor workplace conditions and sanction private entities violating the law,” said Sheila Varadan, ICJ Legal Advisor on South Asia. “To single out and focus solely on the role of multi-national companies does not reflect the full picture.”

“While the ICJ does not minimize the responsibility of private enterprises, unless the underlying systemic issues such as institutional weaknesses, corruption and lack of enforcement are addressed, such tragedies will continue to happen,” Varadan added.

Litigation is a vital tool to ensure accountability, remedy and reparations, where government agencies fail in their essential functions.

The Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST), a leading national human rights organization, has been petitioning the Supreme Court over the past decade, obtaining orders against government agencies and seeking compensation for victims and their families in work-related disasters.

“The government of Bangladesh must take active measures to ensure its regulatory framework is adequate and effective; its laws are rigorously enforced; and victims are adequately compensated,” Varadan also said. “Failing to do so not only violates Bangladeshi law but is also in breach of Bangladesh’s obligations to protect human rights under international law.”

Sheila Varadan, ICJ Legal Advisor, South Asia Programme (Bangkok), t: +66 857200723; email: sheila.varadan(at)

Sam Zarifi, ICJ Asia-Pacific Regional Director, (Bangkok), t:+66 807819002; email: sam.zarifi(at)

Bangladesh-Rana Plaza-Public interest litigation-backgrounder-featured article-2013 (full text in pdf)

Bangladesh-WGBHR5-OralStatement-LegalSubmission-2013 (full statement to the Working Group on Business and Human Rights)

NewsPress releases