European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI)

Fifth report on Georgia [en] - [fr] – [ge]

Press Release – 01.03.2016

Georgian version

Discrimination against religious minorities and LGBT on the rise, law enforcement deficient in Georgia, says Anti-Racism Commission of the Council of Europe

Strasbourg, 1 March 2016 – The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) today published its fourth report on Georgia, analysing recent developments and outstanding issues, and providing recommendations to the authorities. The Georgian Government’s observations were published together with the report.

“Despite certain progress achieved by Georgia on anti-discrimination policies and legislation, hate speech and violence against some ethnic and religious minorities, as well as LGBT persons have increased over the past years, and the authorities’ response has not been sufficient,” says Christian Ahlund, ECRI’s Chair.

Hate speech and physical attacks against some minorities, such as Muslims, are on the rise; and there is a general homo- and transphobic climate in Georgian society.

Thorbjorn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, said: “Intolerance and discrimination against LGBT persons must be stopped in Georgia, and across Europe. The judiciary and law enforcement agencies have a key role to play. When violent crimes are being investigated, homophobic motivations must be considered from the outset.”

The report welcomed a number of positive developments, such as the amendments to the Criminal Code making racist motivation an aggravating circumstance; enacting in 2014 the Law on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination; the adoption of the National Human Rights Strategy with a focus on freedom of religion and protection of minorities; as well as the implementation of other national policies promoting tolerance and civic integration.

However, not all sorts of manifestations of and support for racism are criminalised in Georgia, and there is no legislation to suppress the public financing of, or to ban or dissolve, racist political parties or organisations. It is also not possible to initiate court cases concerning racial discrimination without referring to a specific victim.

The authorities’ response has not been adequate, the report says, and there is not an effective system for monitoring hate speech. Intolerant comments, in particular of islamophobic and homophobic nature, are increasingly present in the media and in the political discourse, ECRI noted. Since its previous report, no hate speech case has been prosecuted as no legal basis existed. Investigations have only been launched when a specific threat of violence was involved.

In several cases of attacks due to religious intolerance, the police did not properly safeguard the rights of minorities. Similarly, the right of LGBT organisations to hold peaceful public events was not sufficiently defended.

In the area of integration, positive measures to improve the quality of minority education and reduce socio-economic exclusion of historical ethnic minorities have not been sufficient: textbooks need to be improved and teachers better trained.

ECRI has made several recommendations to the authorities. The following two require prompt implementation and will be reviewed by ECRI in two years’ time:

- set up a specialised unit within the police to deal specifically with racist and homo/transphobic hate crime;
- scale up the support for the Council of Religions, in particular by the State Agency for Religious Issues which should utilise the Council’s expertise in order to tackle the problem of religious intolerance.

The report, including Government observations, is available here. It was prepared following ECRI’s visit to Georgia in March 2015 [Press release] and takes account of developments up to 17 June 2015.

ECRI is a human rights body of the Council of Europe, composed of independent experts, which monitors problems of racism, xenophobia, antisemitism, intolerance and discrimination on grounds such as “race”, national/ethnic origin, colour, citizenship, religion and language (racial discrimination); it prepares reports and issues recommendations to member States.

For more information on ECRI: www.coe.int/ecri

Press contact:

Tatiana Baeva, Spokesperson/Press Officer Tel +33 685 11 64 93 tatiana.baieva@coe.int
Stefano Valenti, External Relations Officer, ECRI, Tel.: +33 3 90 21 43 28, stefano.valenti@coe.int