The alleged murder of a labour leader has invited international condemnation with a leading human rights body demanding that the Bangladesh government bring the perpetrators to book and stop such killings.

The victim, Aminul Islam (39), a well-known labour leader in the country's readymade garments sector, was found dead last week with severe torture marks on his body after his mysterious disappearance from near his workplace in Ashulia, on the outskirt of Dhaka. The family of Islam alleged that law enforcement agencies had tortured him to death and dumped the body. His body was exhumed following a court order.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina that Islam, president of the Savar and Ashulia units of the Bangladesh Garment & Industrial Workers Federation, disappeared on April 4, and his tortured body was found two days later in Ghatail, 100 km from Dhaka. The labour leader, who was also an organiser with the Bangladesh Centre for Workers' Solidarity (BCWS), a non-government organisation for workers rights, had been detained in June 2010 and allegedly tortured by members of the intelligence agency, the HRW claimed .

“The brutal murder of the labour leader raises serious concerns of government involvement,” said Phil Roberson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. It demanded an impartial investigation into the killing and bringing all those responsible to justice.

“There has been a rash of enforced disappearances in Bangladesh, with bodies sometimes turning up far from where the person was last seen alive,” said Mr. Robertson. “Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina should order government officials at all levels to take immediate action to end these horrific abuses,” he said.

Islam, along with other BCWS leaders, had been facing trial in several cases connected to labour disputes and violence in Ashulia in July 2011. The rights body considers these charges “politically motivated” as the police had done little to investigate the charges further or bring the cases to trial.

“The killing of Aminul Islam shows the need for the government to take urgent measures to ensure the safety of his colleagues at the BCWS, who have also been targets of harassment and abuse by officials,” said Mr. Robertson.

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