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Union Victory! Basra Court finally drops charges against Hassan Juma’a

2 July, 2013Acquittal for the Iraqi oil workers’ leader Hassan Juma’a was finally achieved on 1 July. The sham judicial process persecuting Hassan for organizing workers was defeated after four months of trade union campaigning supported by international solidarity.

Basra court hearings, originally tabled for 20 March, 7 April, 15 April, 2 May, 19 May, 3 June, and 17 June were all postponed when the Ministry of Oil, the Southern Oil Company (SOC) and its legal representatives consistently failed to provide any evidence in support of their claims that Hassan Juma’a was guilty of undermining the Iraqi economy by organizing illegal strikes and publicly criticizing the privatization of Iraq’s oil.

Hassan is President of the IndustriALL affiliated Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU), the major oil workers union in the South of the country. Following the verdict Hassan stated:

This victory is a victory of the entire trade union movement in Iraq and one that will inspire us to continue fighting for workers' rights and a fair labour law. This was the first time this legislation was used to persecute an Iraqi trade unionist in this way and our victory sets an important precedent. International solidarity and messages addressed to the ministry and the prime minister had a significant impact in the verdict. I warmly thank all those who supported us.

The 1 July hearing took less than 30 minutes to reach the decision to drop the charges after the company lawyer and the prosecutor repeated the accusations 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. On this occasion Hassan's lawyer did not even need to present his defense.

If convicted he would have faced stiff fines and up to three years in prison. This is the first time an Iraqi trade unionist has been charged under penal code 111-1969, an archaic law that the Saddam Hussein regime used to repress state employees.            

IndustriALL Global Union mounted an international campaign in support of Hassan. He attended the recent IndustriALL Executive Committee, where, following a passionate presentation of the situation, delegates from around the world pledged their support for him and his union and called for these sham charges to be dropped immediately.

Earlier similar decisions had been taken by affiliated trade unions from throughout the Middle East & North Africa region (MENA.)

This case underlines the importance of the international campaign for a just labour law in Iraq. Repressive Saddam-era labour legislation has to be replaced through a process that includes national trade unions and establishes laws in line with international standards and fundamental principles of the ILO.

IndustriALL General Secretary Jyrki Raina congratulated Hassan:

We are all delighted that this malicious attack on you and the union you head has finally ended with you completely vindicated. We pledge continued international support to your struggles for oil workers in Iraq and assure you that the campaign for a just and ILO compliant Labour Law in your country will be a major priority for our work in your region. Congratulations on your victory!