Politics

Is there Discrimination in Georgia? – Prime Minister Denies, Policemen Investigate

12 July, 2021

On July 7th, during the briefing held by the European Commissioner of Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi, Giorgi Gharibashvili claimed that the anti-discrimination law introduced in 2014 aims to undermine any discrimination within the country, but, at the same time, due to the Georgian traditions, the concept of “family” was further specified in the constitution. Furthermore, the Prime Minister has also stated that discrimination based on different opinions and lifestyles does not occur in Georgia.

Irakli Gharibashvili, Prime Minister: “I am reminding you that during my time serving as Prime Minister in 2014, we have introduced the anti-discrimination law to end any form of discrimination within the country. At the same time, while considering our culture, traditions and the interests of our population, we have then managed to define ‘marriage’ in our constitution. This is another topic, but nowadays, in our country, there is no discrimination against the people of a different opinion and different lifestyle.”

The claim of Irakli Gharibashvili that there is no discrimination against people of different opinions and different lifestyles in Georgia is false. According to the latest data of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia, Prosecutor’s Office and the Supreme Court of Georgia, within the last three months of 2020, 246 criminal investigations have been initiated for discrimination-based intolerance, while 95 of which ended with a prosecution.

In 2020, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia, the Prosecutor’s Office and the Supreme Court of Georgia, with the support of the Council of Europe, started to create the general statistic about the crimes motivated by discrimination-based intolerance. The first pilot report covers the timeframe between the 1st of October to December 31st, 2020. The report states that within the last three months of 2020, 246 criminal investigations have been initiated for discrimination-based intolerance, while 95 of which ended with a prosecution—most (87) out of prosecuted cases concerned gender-based crime.

On June 17th, 2021, the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia published the 2016-2020 statistics regarding the crimes committed due to intolerance and against the LGBTQ+ community on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. According to the Prosecutor’s Office, due to the crime of intolerance, 675 people have been prosecuted, while criminal investigations have started against 100 persons on the basis of discrimination against sexual orientation and gender identity.

In particular, in 2020, 28 people were recognized as victims of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity:

Crime Motif

Number of Victims

Gender Identity

13

Sexual Orientation

15

  • The reports of the Public Ombudsman and the Tolerance and Diversity Institute:

In total, the public Ombudsman has studied 113 cases of alleged discrimination. The quantitative distribution for the alleged discrimination cases of 2020 is the following:

1
Diagram: Public Ombudsman’s Office

In 2019, Public Ombudsman studied 155 alleged cases of discrimination. The quantitative distribution of the potential signs is the following:

Protected Ground. 155 New Cases filed in the reporting period

2
Out of the alleged discrimination cases studied by the Public Ombudsman in 2019-2020, the most prevalent was discrimination on the basis of religion, nationality and homophobia. Including:

  • The attack on the “Tbilisi Pride” Office on June 7th, 2020;
  • The attack by homophobic groups on the activists gathered an “Amirani Cinema” to watch the LGBTQ+ themed movie;
  • On June 18-23, 2019, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia failed to guarantee the safety of the organizers of the “Tbilisi Pride” and asked them to hold the event in a closed area. According to the Ombudsman, this act violated the freedom of expression of LGBTQ+ people;
  • Refusal to rent the publicly available properties to LGBTQ+ people;
  • The foreign citizens were restricted to inherit property rights based on citizenship;
  • During the pandemic-related emergency, the application of the imposed restriction on different religious movements was unjust;
  • The Public Register has put up such requirements for the religious organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses to register the right for the land property that was not reflected by the law;
  • On April 29th, 2019, the properties owned by Jehovah’s Witnesses had been damaged in Gori and Khashuri municipalities. In one case, NNLE “Christian Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Georgia,” has been recognized as the victim; nonetheless, the perpetrator has not been prosecuted. In the other case, the organization was not even identified as the victim. In May 2019, five different cases of damaging the organization’s buildings and vehicles had been reported. According to the 2019 data, no party was recognized as the victim or accused in any of the five cases;

In addition, according to the 2020-21 (May) report of the Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI), the state attitude towards the fundamental right of belief and religion becomes more and more alarming. “The government openly and intensively intervenes with the freedom of religion, neglects the principle of equality and deepens the discrimination among religious groups.” The report of TDI covers multiple instances of religion-based discrimination. Such examples include illegal breach into the freedom of religion, illegally restricting the freedom of movement to the religious organizations, giving the Georgian Patriarchate special privileges to celebrate religious events, crimes based on religious intolerance and religion-based discrimination during the national exams:

  • According to the rulings made by the City Court and Court of Appeal in 2019 and 2021, the refusal of the Batumi City Hall to grant permission of building a mosque is discriminatory;
  • Within the timeframe of April 17-27, 2020, under the imposed restriction on public and private transportation, as opposed to the Orthodox Church, other religious organizations benefited only with a limited amount of special permissions.
  • Under the pandemic, the imposed restriction on free movement was only lifted during the night of January 6th, especially for the Orthodox Church. The same occurred during Easter when other religious organizations had to perform divine worship during the daytime.
  • In January 2021, village Buknari in Chokhatauri municipality witnessed a religion-based confrontation.
  • The request to change the exam date of the members of the “7th Day Christian-Adventist Church” was denied by the National Exam Center, even though the church prohibits participation in secular activities on weekends.

By Mariam Dangadze and Keti Khutsishvili