Bangladeshi union leader illegally detained, in ill-health

Labour rights article written on the 18 Feb 2011

Image: Garment worker leader Moshrefa Mishu along with other leaders at rally in October 2010 (Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World)

The following information was obtained from an Asian Human Rights Commission report detailing the illegal detention and subsequent hospitalisation of a pre-eminent Bangladeshi labour rights activist.

At 1:15 am on December 14 last year, twelve plain-clothed officers arrived at the home of Mashrefa Mishu, Garment Workers Unity Forum President and long time human rights activist.

Claiming to be undercover police from the detective branch, the officers did not carry a warrant but threatened to arrest her if she did come with them. Mishu only had enough time to change out of her bed clothes. As they left the house she was not allowed to carry her medicines (Mishu is an asthmatic who also suffers from serious spinal injuries). She spent the rest of her night in prison.

At her initial court hearing Mishu was accused of vandalism in Kuril, a charge for which the police are yet to produce any evidence. When after two days Mishu sought bail she was charged with a second offence—this time for connections with an extremist organization.

During the two days of her detention Mishu’s health had seriously declined. Following her bail hearing Mishu collapsed on her way back to the police vehicle and has been sent to hospital. She remains there under supervision and is likely to return to prison once she has recovered.

According to Moshrefa Mishu’s lawyer, Sadia Arman, Mishu was subjected to torture while under the arrest of the detective branch.

Human rights organisations and the International Labour Rights Forum believe Mishu’s arrest is another case of trumped up charges designed to bring down union leaders in retaliation for strikes and demonstrations. Mishu’s detention came shortly after worker protests in Chittagong in which workers demanded compensation following the underpayment of wages. In the aftermath of the protests, police filed cases against as many as 33,000 workers.

Labour rights advocates are asking that charges against Mishu, along with other labour leaders, are dropped immediately and calling for respect for the human rights of Bangladeshi unionists.

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Free Moshrefa Mishu and all detained workers immediately

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Image: Garment worker leader Moshrefa Mishu along with other leaders at rally in October 2010 (Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World)