January 22nd 2013
International condemnation of conviction of Thai activist Somyot Prueksakasemsuk
Image by Karnt Thassanaphak
Clean Clothes Campaign, together with the Free Somyot Campaign and the Thai Labour Campaign strongly deplores the conviction of human rights defender and magazine editor Somyot Prueksakasemsuk. Today, the Bangkok Criminal Court found him guilty on 2 counts of Article 112 of the Criminal Code (the lèse-majesté law*) and sentenced him to 11 years of imprisonment.
Somyot is a prisoner of conscience. He was convicted solely for the exercise of his right to freedom of expression and opinion and the right to participate in public life. He has been in detention since April 2011for the publication of two articles deemed insulting to the monarch. Today’s verdict is a serious blow to the rule of law in Thailand and will further contribute to self-censorship.
The verdict is a violation of international human rights law, in particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Thailand has ratified. Currently, Thailand is running for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. CCC recalls that the UN Charter urges the General Assembly, where the election takes place, to consider candidates’ contribution “to the maintenance of international peace and security and to the other purposes of the Organization,” (article 23.1 on criteria of membership of UNSC) including “respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms” (article 1.3 of the UN Charter).
If Thailand is to be in compliance with its binding international legal obligations to respect and protect basic rights, this unjust verdict against Somyot should be promptly overturned on appeal. Additionally, while the appeal is being considered, his constitutional right to provisional release should be upheld so that he could reunite with his family, better attend to his medical conditions, and adequately prepare for his defense.
One political prisoner is one too many. CCC calls on Thailand to free Somyot and all other persons detained on politically-motivated charges and end all forms of harassment against them.
*Thailand’s lèse-majesté law prohibits any word or act, which “defames, insults, or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent, or the Regent”.
This law places the country in contravention of its international legal obligations to uphold international standards of freedom of expression.
Bangladesh factory fire: brands accused of criminal negligence.
The Clean Clothes Campaign, along with trade unions and labour rights organisations in Bangladesh and around the world is calling for immediate action from international brands following yesterday’s fire in Dhaka Bangladesh, which cost the lives over one hundred garment workers.
The killed and injured workers were producing garments for international clothing brands when their factory, Tazreen Fashions, went up in flames. According to their website Tazreen produced for a host of well known brand names including C&A, Carrefour, KIK and Walmart. The Clean Clothes Campaign believes that international brands have shown ongoing negligence in failing to address the safety issues highlighted by previous fires, and that this leaves them with responsibility for yet another tragic loss of life.
Many of the workers jumped to their deaths trying to escape from the six story building, others, unable to escape the blaze, were burned alive. The death toll continues to rise as rescue workers plough through the remains of the devastated factory. One fire fighter at the scene reported that there wasn’t a single fire exit on the outside of the factory. First reports suggest the fire was started by an electrical short circuit. The cause of over 80% of all factory fires in Bangladesh are due to faulty wiring.
“These brands have known for years that many of the factories they choose to work with are death traps. Their failure to take action amounts to criminal negligence” says Ineke Zeldenrust from the Clean Clothes Campaign.
Together with our partners in Bangladesh the CCC is calling call for an independent and transparent investigation into the causes of the fire, for full and fair compensation to be paid to the victims and their families and importantly concrete action from all parties involved to prevent future tragedies.
“As we yet again mourn the loss of scores of garment workers in Bangladesh, we demand that brands step up their game. Tragedy after tragedy underlines our belief that simple, cosmetic changes to existing programmes simply aren’t enough. Action needs to be taken to address the root causes of these fires” said Ms Zeldenrust.
The CCC, together with local and global unions and labour rights organisations has developed a sector-wide program for action that includes an programme of independent and transparent inspections, an obligatory upgrading of the buildings supplying participating brands, a review of all existing laws and safety regulations, a commitment to pay prices that can cover the costs involved and the direct involvement of trade unions in worker training on health and safety. The Clean Clothes campaign is now renewing its demand for brands need to sign on immediately.
The employers and government of Bangladesh must also take their share of responsibility. The government must carry out an immediate investigation of the causes of the fire and prosecute those whose negligence has caused the death of these women and men. It must also invest in a country-wide programme of inspections to ensure that the buildings currently in use a fit for purpose and the buildings and wiring meet safety standards. All factory owners in Bangladesh must immediately review the safety procedures in place at their factories, carry out checks on he building and electrical safety and, most importantly, start working with trade unions to train their workers on safety procedures and allow space for workers to voice their concerns.
The Clean Campaign will continue to work with out partners on the ground to establish the full facts of the case and to push for justice for those affected by this terrible tragedy. In the meantime we call on all those with a stake in Bangladesh garment industry to move on from mere hand wringing and towards meaningful and concrete action to prevent such a horrific loss of life from happening in the future.
Garment tribunal verdict finds systematic human rights abuse
Multinational brands urged to respond to demands
The verdict of a tribunal to assess human rights abuses faced by workers in the Indian garment industry was announced today in Bangalore.
Judges found overwhelming evidence of ‘grave and systematic violations of individual and collective human rights’ suffered by garment workers and called for immediate action to be taken by a variety of stakeholders.
The verdict follows a two day hearing in which over 250 garment workers from Gurgaon, Tirupur and Bangalore gathered to give evidence pointing to the fact that a living wage and decent working conditions are a pressing necessity in the industry.
“You end up like a machine working on a machine,” said 36-year-old garment worker Ashok Kumar, about the inhuman production targets at factories. Ashkok is a from a Gurgaon factory producing for high street brands such as GAP, H&M and Next.
The jury findings focused on the urgency for a living wage to be paid to workers, and gave evidence of its status as a human right that must be addressed. It further acknowledged the prevelance of illegal compulsory overtime, inhuman productivity measures, systematic denial of social security payments, sexual harassment and gender discrimination, and active suppression of the right to freedom of association in the industry.
The judges stressed that multinational brands must acknowledge their complicity in the rights violations described. This statement came in response to evidence presented by representatives from the fashion brand H&M who had attended the tribunal on Thursday – the brand had focused its submission on speaking about training suppliers to take more responsibility for upholding rights.
Judges also gave recommendations for action to be taken by Indian government, state officials and labour officers, trade unions, ILO, international brands, national companies and suppliers.
“The tribunal reveals a chasm between the CSR speak of international garment companies and the real situation faced by Asian garment workers,” said Ms. Anannya Bhattacharjee, co-ordinator of the International Asia Floor Wage Alliance. “The wage issue is a cross border problem and needs to be addressed as such. International players must work together and use the Asia Floor Wage figure to combat poverty pay in the garment sector.”
Dr. Jeroen Merk, of the International Clean Clothes Campaign said, “Without garment workers the world would walk around naked, yet the value apportioned to their contribution is not acknowledged financially.”
1.Available for interview:
Ms. Anannya Bhattacharjee, coordinator for Asia Floor Wage Alliance, +919810970627
Dr. Jeroen Merk, Clean Clothes Campaign International Secretariat, + 31646744662
2.The ‘National People’s Tribunal on the Right to a Living Wage’, is taking place from 22-25th November in Bangalore – one of India’s garment production centres. It has been organised by the International Asia Floor Wage Alliance in collaboration with Indian garment workers’ trade unions and workers’ rights groups, and seeks to make public the relevant concerns of those employed in the Indian garment sector.
3.The Permanent People’s Tribunal movement was set up to highlight systematic human rights abuses, and present recommendations for remediation in a global context. Sessions of the tribunal have focused on issues such the Bhopal disaster, and American intervention in the Brazian Amazon.
4.The People’s Tribunal in India is the third of its kind to be held on issues in the garment industry, the first being held in Sri Lanka in 2011 and the second in Cambodia earlier in 2012.
6. Further information and notes from the Tribunal’s proceedings have been posted on:
Clean Clothes Campaign calls on brands sourcing from Pakistan to undertake immediate reviews of their suppliers.
On Wednesday September 11th three fires at separate garment factories in Russia and Pakistan claimed the lives of over 300 workers. Just nine days later, a fire in a slum on the outskirts of Dakha Bangladesh left 4000 people homeless, most of whom were garment workers from nearby factories.
The first factory based in Lahore, Pakistan, produced shoes. The factory had only one exit route which also doubled as the entrance. When the fire broke out close to the entrance the workers were trapped inside. Firefighters had to break holes in the factory walls in an attempt to rescue the workers. Pakistani papers report that of the 25 workers that died, almost half were teenagers, some as young as 13.
In Russia, the fire killed 14 Vietnamese migrant workers who were said to have been locked into the factory.
The second Pakistani factory was based in Karachi. Here 289 people died, in Ali Enterprises, a factory producing jeans for a German discount retailer KIK. Reports say that security exits were locked, windows were barred and there were no fire extinguishers on the premise. Identification of the dead has been hindered by the fact that workers were undocumented and without contracts.
The factory run by Ali Enterprises Inc, had been audited and accredited with the SA8000 certificate of social compliance as recently as August 2012, just a month before the fire took place. The SA8000 is a certificate awarded by Social Accountability International a US based monitoring group who approve safety standards. Social Accountability International describes itself as a “non-governmental, multi-stakeholder organization whose mission is to advance the human rights of workers around the world. It partners to advance the human rights of workers and to eliminate sweatshops by promoting ethical working conditions, labor rights, corporate social responsibility and social dialogue”. Ali Enterprises was awarded the certificate by RINA, an Italian based global certification body accredited by Social Accountability International.
Both Social Accountability International and RINA have issued statements regarding the fire but a full report is yet to be released answering the crucial question: How was the Ali Enterprise factory in question issued with a certificate of decent work one month before a deadly fire, where there was clear breaches of safety standards? The National Trade Union Federation in Karachi state that although the high death toll at Ali Enterprises had led to extensive coverage of the fire, this is not an isolated incident but a regular occurrence in an industry that is poorly regulated.
These tragic incidents highlight the spectrum of injustices that occur in the supply chain of the global garment and fast fashion industry and bring to the fore yet again, the issue of workers rights within the global garment manufacturing industry. From health and safety at work to the right to a decent wage, the price workers are paying for keeping our high street stores stocked with ever changing latest fashions at the cheapest prices is not just calculable in dollars and cents.
The Clean Clothes Campaign is working to motivate the public, retailers and brands as well as the government and international community to afford positive change within the clothing manufacturing industry. Speaking on behalf of CCC Ireland Rosie O’ Reilly says “Considering Ireland imported €106 million worth of textiles and clothing from Bangladesh and Pakistan alone, it is time for buyers to take more responsibility. They must ensure the goods they source are being produced in an environment safe for workers where their rights are being respected, with this in mind we are calling on Irish retailers to take immediate reviews of their supply chain” stressing that similar disasters could happen again if the root causes of these fires are not addressed urgently.
The Clean Clothes Campaign is currently working on various campaigns to improve the situation for workers in the garment industry.
Aminul Islam was a former garment worker and trade union leader who was tortured and murdered as a result of his work to improve conditions in the Bangladesh garment sector. The CCC are working with Aminul’s family and friends in seeking justice for his death, as so far police efforts have been minimal. Learn more.
Somyot is a trade union leader facing up to 15 years in prison in Thailand. Having just had his 10th application for bail refused, Somyot is now entering his 18th month in prison on charges of Lese Majeste – the crime of insulting the Monarchy of Thailand. Somyot is a long standing supporter of garment workers and has been imprisoned in connection to an article that was publised in a magazine that he edits. Learn more
– Clare Nally