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Georgia: Authorities ineffective in preventing and stopping anti-Jehovah’s Witnesses violence

Human rights judges today declared that severe harassment of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Georgia was tolerated by the authorities in 2000-2001.

The judges’ opinion merged in their chamber judgement published today in the case Begheluri and Others v. Georgia (application no. 28490/02). The European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights, taken separately and in conjunction with Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) with regard to 32 of the applicants, on account of the inhuman and degrading treatment to which they were subjected – and no violation, in that respect, of Article 3 taken separately or in conjunction with Article 14 with regard to the remaining applicants;

a violation of Article 3, taken separately and in conjunction with Article 14 with regard to 46 of the applicants on account of the authorities’ failure to conduct an effective investigation into their complaints – and no violation, in that respect, of Article 3 taken separately or in conjunction with Article 14 with regard to the remaining applicants;

a violation of Article 9 (freedom of thought, conscience, and religion), taken separately and in conjunction with Article 14 with regard to 88 applicants.

The court found in particular that state authorities had been ineffective in preventing and stopping religiously motivated violence. State officials had either directly participated in the attacks on Jehovah’s Witnesses or they had tolerated violence by private individuals against members of the religious community.

The authorities had thus created a climate of impunity, which encouraged further attacks throughout the country. Furthermore, they had been unwilling to ensure the prompt and fair prosecution of those responsible.

Article 41 (just satisfaction)

The Court held that Georgia was to pay each of those applicants with regard to whom it had found a violation of the Convention 350 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 15,000 to the applicants jointly in respect of costs and expenses.

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