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State against “Okruashvili’s Slaves”

24.08.2009
Gela Mtivlishvili, Kakheti

The Ministry of Defense of Georgia sued hundreds of former soldiers  alleging that they violated a term of the contract under which they served in the army. All these soldiers signed the contract when the Minister of Defense was Irakli Okruashvili who is in opposition to the current government of Georgia. The Ministry of Defense demands that former soldiers pay the liquidated damage specified in the contract which varies from 30 -40,000 US Dollars.

Crushing Terms

According to the Ministry’s rule thecontract between the Ministry of Defense and a citizen who serves in the military detachment is for four years of service.

According to the contract terms when a soldier quits or leaves the army by agreement with  the Ministry of Defense, he/she is obliged to pay  liquidated damage which equals the salary the soldier would have received till the end of the contract. A soldier must pay the money within 10 days of having violated the contract. This rule covers all soldiers in almost all cases. A soldier also has to pay the liquidated damage  if it is the Ministry of Defense that dimisses him. The contract prescribes the procedure for paying the liquidated damage:

a. If a soldier served under contract terms for more than one year but less than 2 years out of 4, he/she must pay the amount of money that equals the total of his/her 3-year salary which is approximately 14,000 GEL. The amount of money shall be calculated based on the last salary received.

b. If a military servant served 2 years but less than 3 years out of 4, he/she must pay the amount of money that equals the total of his/her 2 -year salary which is approximately 10 ,00 GEL. The amount of money shall be calculated based on the last salary received.

c. If a military servant served 3 years but less than 4 years out of 4, he/she must pay the amount of money that equals the total of his/her 1- year salary which is approximately 5,000 GEL. The amount of money shall be calculated based on the last salary received.

If a soldier does not pay the money in the prescribed period of time a late payment penalty of 0.2 % of the liquidated damage will be added for each day after the deadline. If a soldier is unable to pay the money in the prescribed period of time he will be barred from  a job in a civil service or any enterprise which functions under the state control until he has paid the debt. According to Article 7.3 of the contract a soldier agrees that he will not dispute  the amount of liquidated damage prescribed in the contract in case of any trial concerning the contract.

The Case of Ivane Sepiashvili

Ivane Sepiashvili signed a four-year contract with the Ministry of Defense on July 8, 2005. Sepiashvili served in the army for 11 months and 5 days but left due to his family related problems.

“I was forced to go back home because of the death of my father. I had to take care of my family. I was dismissed under the order of the Minister of Defense dated June 27, 2006. The Ministry did not demand any money for 3 years. I even served as a reservist during the August 2008 events. In May 2009 the Ministry of Defense sued me,” said the soldier..

The Ministry of Defense of Georgia filed the complaint against Ivane Sepiashvili in the Gurjaani District Court. The ministry explained to the court that Ivane Sepiashvili violated a contract term: “The defendant has a four-year contract with the Ministry of Defence. However, he served only 11 months and 5 days. Therefore, he must be obliged to pay the liquidated damage – 14, 985 GEL and 0.2 percent of liquidated damage as a late payment penalty for each day after the deadline. He must also reimburse the money that the Ministry spent for his training. The reimbursement of training expenses is prescribed by the contract and equals 4, 992 GEL,” reads the suit of the Ministry of Defense.

A representative of Ivane Sepiashvili explained at the trial that it was written in the contract between Ivane Sepiashvili and the ministry that he would be obliged to pay liquidated damage if he left the army after serving at least one year. The representative said that the contract did not prescribe paying  damagesif the soldier served less than one year. The court did not grant the suit of the Ministry of Defense because Sepiashvili served less than one year  under the contract.

The Case of Saridan Mamisashvili

Saridan Mamisashvili is another person the Ministry of Defence wants to pay liquidated damage for violating contract terms. The contracts the Ministry signed with Saridan and some other military servants prescribed that if they left the service after having served less than or more than one year or  they would have to pay the liquidated damage. The contract of Saridan Mamisashvili and some other soldiers have an enclosed document which deals with an amendment to the contract. Subparagraph (a) of the article on specific terms of responsibility of a soldier  reads as follows: “If a soldier has served one year or  under the contract he/she is obliged to pay liquidated damage for violating the contract in 10 days after the violation of the contract.”

According to the Ministry of Defense Saridan Mamisashvili signed a contract with the Ministry on January 21, 2006. He was dismissed on August 7, 2006. The Ministry sued Mamishashvili on July 16, 2009 and demanded that he paid the liquidated damage. The Ministry demanded 26, 068 GEL and 22,664 GEL. The latter is the amount imposed for not having paid liquidated damage in the prescribed period.

“After having dismissed Saridan Mamisashvili, the Ministry had to hire another soldier, spend money on his training in order to upgrade his qualification to the level the defendant had when he was dismissed from the army,” said Vepkhia Grigalashvili, a head of Division on Relations with Courts within the Ministry of Defense.

Saridan Mamisashvili said that he signed the contract without having read the contract terms. “Irakli Okruashvili, the Minister of Defense of that time issued an order on my enrolling in the army. The same day when he issued the order I signed a contract but I did not read it. I had to leave the army because my child became ill. I wrote a letter on quitting the army to my chief and he granted my application on quitting. I had no idea that they would  demandsuch a high liquidated damage. I received the letter of my chief  granting my application toquit together with a copy of a court suit,” said the former soldier.

The Gurjaani District Court is adjudicating Saridan Mamishashvili’s case.

“A Minister’s Slaves”

Lia Khuroshvili, a lawyer, thinks that the terms of the contract between the Ministry of Defense and military servants are crushing. “Some contract terms are discriminatory and contradict the Georgian legislation. For instance, the amounts of liquidated damage prescibed in the Article 7.3 are very high. Also, the same article 7.3 prescribes that a soldier shall not dispute  the amount of money he/she will have to pay as  liquidated damage in case of any trial over the contract terms. Consequently, a soldier is deprived of the chance to appeal this particular article of the contract. This is a violation of one of the fundamental rights of a person to have the right to protect his/her interests in court. This right is prescribed by international acts and the Georgian Constitution. This term of the contract practically places soldier in the condition of a slave,” said the lawyer.

Lia Khuroshvili also said that in the above cases of the soldiers, the Ministry of Defense misused its authority: “The contract prescribes that the soldier must  pay 02. % of the late payment fine each day the soldier delays to pay the damage. The ministry abused its right when it sued the military soldiers after 3 years of violating the contracts. I ASSUME, the ministry was waiting for the increase of the late payment penalty.”

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