DHAKA - Top global retail associations have demanded a swift and impartial probe into the murder of a prominent Bangladeshi trade unionist in the garment sector, a statement showed Wednesday.
Police discovered the badly injured body of 40-year-old Aminul Islam dumped by the roadside northwest of Dhaka on April 6, leading his supporters to point the finger at Bangladesh's security forces.
He disappeared in Ashulia, the country's main textile hub just outside the capital where he led a top union that organised protests to increase the wages of the three million workers in the sector.
In a joint letter to the Bangladesh Prime Minister, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, the retail organisations demanded a "comprehensive, impartial, and swift investigation" into the death.
"We are deeply concerned about this incident," said the buyers, who represent the US, Canadian, and European apparel, retail, licensing, and footwear industries.
"The apparent circumstances leading up to and surrounding Mr Islam's death could be perceived to be part of a deliberate campaign to repress efforts to raise and address issues related to unsatisfactory working conditions."
The groups, including the US-based National Retail Federation and the EU's Foreign Trade Association, said they were "committed to sourcing and/or licensing consumer products in a responsible manner that respects human and worker rights."
Islam was one of the organisers of demonstrations in 2006 and 2010 that forced the country's 5,000 factories to raise salaries.
His group, Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity, immediately blamed the security agencies for his abduction. He was detained once before, in 2010, but escaped after being taken to a remote northern district.
Bangladesh is the world's second-largest apparel exporter with overseas sales of more than $19 billion in 2011. Europe and North America account for nearly 90 per cent of the country's textile shipments.
In recent weeks, Islam had been helping 8,000 workers of Shanta Group, a leading garment manufacturer based outside Dhaka, push for trade union rights and benefits. The factory supplies leading US clothing stores.