Justice, not hand-outs. Liability, not voluntary giving. These are the calls made by survivors and relatives of victims of the fatal fire at the Ali Enterprises textile factory in Karachi (Pakistan). 260 people were killed in the fire on 11 September 2012, a further 32 were injured. German clothing retailer KiK was by its own admission the factory's main customer. A few more exits, accessible stairways and clearly signposted escape routes: a couple of changes would have been enough to save many lives in the fire that destroyed the textile factory. Inadequate fire safety measures at the company led to the agonizing deaths.
On 13 March 2015, four of those affected by the disaster filed a compensation claim against KiK at the Regional Court in Dortmund. Muhammad Hanif, Muhammad Jabbir, Abdul Aziz Khan Yousuf Zai and Saeeda Khatoon are all members of the Baldia Factory Fire Association, the organization run by those affected by the fire, and are seeking 30,000 euro each in compensation. On 30 August 2016, the court issued an initial decision: the court has accepted jurisdiction and granted legal aid to the claimants to cover their costs. This decision is a first step towards dealing with human rights violations by German companies abroad before German courts. ECCHR, medico international and the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) from Pakistan are assisting with the case, which was filed by Berlin lawyer Dr. Remo Klinger.
The case against KiK should make it clear that transnational corporations' responsibilities also extend to the working conditions in their subsidiary and supplier companies abroad. On 10 September 2016, KiK announced in the course of a dialogue moderated by the International Labour Organization that the company was prepared to pay 5.15 million US dollars in pecuniary damages to those impacted by the fire. However, KiK continued to refuse to pay damages for pain and suffering or to officially acknowledge its share of the responsibility, as called for by those affected in the lawsuit they filed in Germany.
Q&A: The compensation claim against KiK.