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Georgia: Human rights court decision looms in Jehovah’s Witness complaint against harassment


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Tomorrow, human righs judges will announce their decision in a complaint against Georgia brought by 13 Jehova’s Witnesses.

Tsartsidze and Others v. Georgia (no. 18766/04)

The applicants are 13 Georgian nationals who are all Jehovah’s Witnesses. The case concerns alleged harassment of Jehovah’s witnesses in Georgia.

The applicants submit that in 2000 and 2001 they had been the victims of various instances of intimidation and aggression towards Jehovah’s Witnesses either by Orthodox religious extremists or by the authorities, including the police.

In five separate incidents some had been prevented from attending a religious meeting when stopped at a police checkpoint and others had had their religious meetings disrupted or had been stopped in the street by the police in possession of religious tracts; of those applicants some had been taken to police stations and had either been beaten or forced to sign a written undertaking not to hold any more gatherings in the future.

All allege that religious equipment and literature had been confiscated or stolen from them, and in one case had subsequently been publicly burned.

The events described by six of the applicants in two of the incidents have been examined in a case already brought to the European Court of Human rights (Begheluri and Others v. Georgia, application no. 28490/02).

All the applicants lodged administrative complaints against the Ministry of the Interior, police officers allegedly involved either directly or indirectly (on account of their failure to intervene in the various incidents) and the local authorities, claiming compensation.

Their complaints were all later dismissed, ultimately at the level of the Supreme Court, because the police’s or the authorities’ involvement in the incidents had not been proven.

The applicants essentially complain about the religiously motivated violence to which they were subjected, alleging that it breached their right to freely practise their religion via meetings and the distribution of religious literature.

They also complain about the courts’ subsequent failure to provide any redress, alleging in particular that the civil and administrative legal remedies in the face of allegedly state-tolerated religious violence in Georgia was inefficient and inadequate.

They rely on Article 6 (right to a fair trial), Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life), Article 9 (freedom of thought, conscience, and religion), Article 11 (freedom of association), Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) and Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination).

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