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Public Defender Demands Investigation of Police Action at Strike

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
WEdnesday, September 21
The Public Defender, Giorgi Tugushi, has addressed the Prosecutor General with a demand to launch investigation into the actions carried out by law enforcers on September 13 and 15, 2011, during the workers’ protest in Kutaisi, and to study the allegations of hindering workers from holding the protest, the dispersal of the protesters, and their detention by law enforcement officers.

According to a statement released by the ombudsman, in order to study the circumstances of the case better, the Public Defender’s representatives tried to meet the administration of the Hercules factory and obtain their explanatory notes on the aforementioned incident, but the administration refused to meet with them and give them these notes.

The explanatory notes that the representatives obtained make it clear that the employees of the factory went on strike with the demand to improve the working conditions in the factory. Several of them resorted to the most extreme form of protest – a hunger strike. The strike involved several incidents in which the rights of the strikers were violated. “In accordance with the explanatory notes given to the Public Defender and the footage disseminated by news outlets, the strikers didn’t violate the requirements established by the Law of Georgia on Meetings and Manifestations either during the protest or when they were setting up a tent.“

As for the day when the protest was broken, the Public Defender states that about 30 crews of the Patrol Police came to the site of the protest. The police officers demanded that the protest disperse and detained a part of the protest participants. “According to the explanatory notes at our disposal, the law enforcers didn’t explain to the protest participants why they were detained either when they were detained or afterwards. At the same time, apart from the so-called assurances, no legal documents were drawn up while they were held in the police building.”

Much stricter was the statement on the issue released by the Georgian Trade Union Confederation (GTUC) accusing authorities of “repressions” against its members. According to the chair of the organization, Irakli Petriashvili, over thirty participants of the strike were detained that night and released several hours later; but on September 18 police arrested three additional workers, “who were actively cooperating with the trade union in preparing a lawsuit in connection with the dispersal of the strikers.” Petruashvili has requested that the civil society and the international community to stand beside the arrested former strikers, because it is not ruled out that other activists of the trade union may also be arrested.

The Brussels-based International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) condemned the dispersal of the strikers.

In a protest letter sent to President Saakashvili, General Secretary of the ITUC, Sharan Burrow, said that the plant management not only ignored a local trade union’s calls for discussing the improvement of working conditions in the plant, but also fired six workers actively cooperating with the trade union, which became the reason for launching a full-scale strike on September 13.

“The role for the government in this situation should have been to attempt to mediate the dispute,” the letter reads. “Unfortunately, the local government not only condoned this illegal activity [by the plant management] but actually furthered its objectives through the use of overwhelming police power. This is an outrage.”

According to Kutaisi Civil Court, three employees of the factory had been given 10 days imprisonment, as they did not obey the police demand to test for drugs.