Bangladesh authorities filed murder charges in June against 41 people for their roles in the 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza building, which killed more than 1,100 people and injured about 2,500. Among those charged are the building’s owner, Sohel Rana; his parents; owners of the five factories in the building; and more than a dozen government officials, according to the lead investigator, Bijoy Krishna Kar of the country’s Criminal Investigation Department.
If convicted of murder, the defendants could face the death penalty. Investigators originally had planned to charge the accused with culpable homicide, which carries a maximum punishment of seven years in jail, but increased the severity of the charge due to the gravity of the accident, which ranks as Bangladesh’s worst industrial disaster. The shift came after the investigation found that Rana, his staff and factory management had forced workers to enter the building after it had developed major cracks a day earlier. The police report called the deaths a “mass killing.”
The Rana Plaza building violated a number of building codes, built several stories higher than was safe on swampy land outside of Dhaka. Its collapse in April 2013 underlined the poor conditions of Bangladesh’s more than $20 billion garment industry, launching a call for reforms.
In May, Rana Plaza victims and their families filed a class-action lawsuit, against a group of retailers with goods produced in the factories, accusing them of negligence and wrongful death. Walmart, J.C. Penney, The Children’s Place and the Bangladesh government “should have known that the Rana Plaza facility wasn’t safe for human habitation,” according to the suit.