NGOs to represent employees relieved from Georgian National Museum positions in court

The lawsuits allege bias and discrimination in cases of Georgian National Museum employees relieved or demoted since the appointment of culture minister Thea Tsulukiani earlier this year. Screenshot from Georgian Public Broadcaster video., 22 Nov 2021 - 15:40, Tbilisi,Georgia

Social Justice Center and Georgian Young Lawyers Association, two Georgian non-governmental organisations, will represent Georgian National Museum employees who have been recently relieved of jobs or demoted in positions in cases the NGOs claim show prejudice.

The two organisations have asked Tbilisi City Court to rescind acts that relieved 10 individuals from the museum network and its subsidiary organisations since the appointment of Thea Tsulukiani as culture minister back in March, additionally alleging "direct discrimination" in one of the cases.

Eight of the individuals have been relieved without warning or demoted, the organisations have said, with two let go after their contracts were not renewed, which the NGOs have characterised as "misuse of employer rights".

The administrative cases have been called by the SJC and GYLA as "removal of unwanted staff" with an aim to "control and censor the museum sector".

One of the highly publicised of the cases is one for Ekaterine Kiknadze, former manager of the Museum of Fine Arts - a venue of the GNM network - who was demoted after she requested to be informed about the plan for evacuation of collections from the museum that has been designated for a major renovation effort.

Kiknadze said on social media in July she and her fellow professionals had seen their mandate for monitoring the process of temporary removal of collections rescinded, and expressed suspicion that the ministry's plan for evacuation "simply does not exist." Her demotion coincided with a public controversy over the culture ministry's plans for the museum.

The two non-governmental organisations have alleged Kiknadze's removal from the work on museum collections was caused by "difference in opinion", with the change in her position used to "remove her from [participation in] a range of significant processes at the museum".

The SJC and GYLA have also pointed to the appointment of Nika Akhalbedashvili, a former lawyer of the Ministry of Justice - then headed by Tsulukiani - to the position of the Fine Arts Museum director, and subsequent cancellation of positions the recently relieved individuals had held at the institution, after their relieving or demotion.

In their lawsuit, the NGOs have asked Tbilisi City Court to rescind the administrative decisions on the 10 individuals, their appointment to "commensurate positions", and ruling of "direct discrimination" in one of the cases.