The hearing today didn’t last long. In 30 minutes the court decided to drop the charges against Hassan Juma’a.
Today the company lawyer and the prosecutor repeated the accusation against Hassan but at the same time confirmed that there were no damages caused by Hassan’s activities. The prosecutor asked to close the case and drop the charges. Hassan’s lawyer didn’t need to present his defense and didn’t expect the prosecutor would drop the charges.
We still don’t have the formal decision; usually the written decision comes later. The South Oil Company can appeal the decision but there is no longer a formal proceeding pending against Hassan Juma’a!
Hassan’s union will send a letter soon.
Your “Charges” Are Their Rights!
Drop the Charges!
In the end the Iraqi government didn’t listen to national and international calls to withdraw the legal case against the trade unionist and human rights defender, Hassan Juma’a Awad, President of the Iraq Federation of Oil Unions. He had been accused in a criminal complaint by his employer, the South Oil Company (SOC), of undermining the Iraqi economy by organizing illegal strikes and publicly criticizing the privatization of Iraq’s oil.
NEW VIDEO: Iraqi Workers After the War [photo]
At a hearing on June 3rd, the SOC lawyer presented a list of charges against Hassan Juma’a based on a letter from the Inspector General of the Iraq Ministry of Oil in Baghdad. The Inspector General’s letter reported the conclusions of an administrative investigation by the Ministry of Oil into the role Hassan Juma’a had played in strikes by oil workers upset with management’s failure to redress their grievances and live up to promises management had made, and continuing violations of worker rights.
The Ministry claimed that Hassan Juma’a instigated the strikes and that he had criticized Iraq’s policy concerning the role of multinational corporations in the development of its oil. The Inspector General sent to the court copies of newspaper articles to prove its charge that Hassan had accused Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani of using a 1987 law enacted by Saddam Hussein to ban trade unions in the public sector. All this, according to the Ministry of Oil, caused “moral damage” to the company and Iraq’s economy.
Hassan Juma’a responded that his activities and statements were part of the legitimate work of the IFOU, explaining the positive role of the union and the fact that it had even received thank you letters from the Ministry of Oil for its contributions to the industry.
The Iraqi constitution guarantees freedom of speech to all Iraqi citizens. It also calls for adoption of a labor law that conforms to internationally recognized labor rights defined by International Labour Organization Conventions, including those signed by Iraq.
The charges against Hassan are an unprecedented use of the Iraqi penal code against a labor activist - relying on a law that was last used during the Saddam era to repress state employees. Hassan faces imprisonment if the court finds that as a result of his actions, "the interests of the state [were] harmed."
The judge gave the SOC lawyer until June 17th to produce evidence of financial damages to the company that Hassan is claimed to have caused.
It is vital that we maintain and increase our solidarity and advocacy efforts to remind the Iraqi government that what the Ministry of Oil claims as "violations" are actuallyrights of Iraqi trade unionists and all Iraqis enshrined in the Iraqi Constitution and international law to criticize their government and express their opinions.
This case is only the latest in ongoing repression of public sector worker rights by the Iraqi government, in which workers and union activists have been fined, transferred, reprimanded and fined for their union activity. Criminalizing union activity represents a clear escalation of state repression of workers exercising their rights.
We call on the Iraqi government to immediately drop the charges against Hassan and cancel disciplinary orders issued by the Ministry of Oil to union activists, including all punitive and retaliatory transfers, reprimands and arbitrary penalties, and to end retaliation against those who are peacefully exercising their rights.
We urge the international labour movement, non-governmental organizations and human rights advocates to speak out against these violations and monitor and report on the proceedings against Hassan Juma’a and other Iraqi workers that are subject to government and employer retaliation and repression.
We invite organizations to sign the Open Letter to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and urge individuals to sign a petition to the government to protest these violations.
An injury to one is an injury to all!
Issued jointly by: Solidarity Center, U.S. Labor Against the War, Iraq Civil Society Solidarity Initiative