Response to Flawed "Investigation"--Cover-up of Classic Sweatshop by the Jordanian Government's National Center for Human Rights

September, 08 2011 Share

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AP 09/08/2011: Jordan rights group: no proof of rape at factory

Response by Charles Kernaghan

Director, Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights


Not an independent human rights organization:


The National Center for Human Rights is part of the Jordanian Government.

Track record of ignoring gross human, women's and labor rights violations: 


Over the course of five years (2001-2006), as the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement descended into human trafficking, with tens of thousands of young foreign guest workers stripped of their passports (an international crime), beaten, forced to work grueling hours under deplorable conditions, seven days a week while being cheated of their wages, with rampant sexual abuse-The National Center for Human Rights did not lift a finger to protect to the fundamental human rights of these guest workers.


There has been no serious investigation of the brutal Classic sweatshop:  


The National Center for Human Rights was unable to secure the records of the Classic company drivers who used company cars to ferry serial rapist Anil Santha to rented safe houses where he raped his young victims.  Has the National Center for Human Rights interviewed the supervisor, Ms. Jhuma, who acted as an enabling, fetching the young women Anil Santha asked for and taking them to the Classic car where Santha was waiting?  Did they find any logs, records or videotape regarding the Classic drivers' whereabouts on the days Anil raped his young victims?  This is all very basic stuff, and just the tip of the iceberg.  We can only conclude that the National Center for Human Rights is either unwilling or ill-prepared to conduct a serious investigation.


"Star Witness" central to the National Center for Human Rights "investigation" is being threatened and managed by a Classic manager who is himself a rapist!

Classic's owner, Sanal Kumar, has put a Bangladeshi production manager, Mr. Faruk Miah, in charge of threatening and coaching the "star witness" and other Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan women workers, instructing them to lie that factory conditions are excellent and rapes never happen, as women are treated with great respect.


The only problem is that Mr. Faruk Miah is himself a rapist.  This is the manager the National Center for Human Rights is relying on.

He violently raped a young Bangladeshi woman in her dorm.  After she threatened to denounce him, Faruk Miah locked her in the dorm for three weeks before forcibly deporting her back to Bangladesh under false charges.  (Within a matter of days, a videotaped interview with the rape victim will be available.)



The National Center for Human Rights refuses to allow respected independent women's rights leaders from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to meet in a safe location with the Classic women workers, with a 100% guarantee that no worker will be punished for daring to speak the truth. 

We repeatedly explained to the Centre that the tens of thousands of young women guest workers from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, Egypt and China would only speak truthfully if they were in a safe location and in the presence of credible, independent women's and worker rights NGOs from their home countries-who they know, trust and respect.  Such meetings must be held in a safe location, where factory management cannot spy on the workers-since workers who are "ratted out" by spies are often imprisoned on false charges and then forcibly deported.


We even offered to pay the travel costs to bring internationally recognized women's and worker rights advocates to Jordan for a meeting between the International Centre for Human Rights and the guest workers.

Every time we asked the Jordanian government's National Centre for Human Rights to allow independent women's rights advocates to enter Jordan, they refused.  This is a serious question:  What is the Centre so afraid of?  Any genuine, independent human rights organization would gladly accept the assistance of respected women's rights leaders.


The National Center for Human Rights apparently supported corrupt factory owners in their demand to ban Bangladeshi workers from entering Jordan. 


If it is true, this would be a first for a "human rights organization."

In 2007, when the Bangladeshi guest workers in Jordan began seeking their legal rights, the government of Jordan immediately responded to appeals of the factory owners by banning all Bangladeshis from entering Jordan.   They were "troublemakers" the factory bosses said.  Is it possible that the National Center for Human Rights supported the banning of all Bangladeshi guest workers?

In July 2010, with garment orders booming, the factory owners reversed themselves, asking the government to lift the ban to allow young Bangladeshi women to be recruited to work in their sweatshop factories.  Does the National Centre for Human Rights also support this human engineering and gender-based discrimination against Bangladeshi men who might wish to work in Jordan?

These are important questions, and the National Centre's positions on these issues will speak volumes about its credibility as a human rights organization.

In the United States, we take for granted that there are effective, independent human, women's and worker rights organizations, strong independent unions and an independent press.  This is definitely not the case in Jordan.



Campaign: Classic/Jordan-Sweatshop Abuse, Sexual Predators