European Court swiftly communicates case of hate crime against Muslims in Georgia

4 November 2016

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On 19 October 2016, the European Court of Human Rights requested the Georgian Government’s response to a case alleging police hate crime against Muslims in the village of Mokhe, less than six weeks after it was lodged. The four applicants, who had been demonstrating against Government plans to convert an old Mosque into a public building, were arrested, beaten, detained and subjected to hate speech on the basis of their religion by the police. The applicants are represented by the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre, based at Middlesex University, and the Human Rights Education and Monitoring Centre (Tbilisi).

In summer 2014, the local Muslim community objected to plans by the Adigeni municipality to convert an old Mosque into a public building. On 22 October 2014, construction works commenced. Local Muslims, including the four applicants, spontaneously gathered at the site and began to protest. The police insulted the protesters, arrested the applicants and ten other people, and detained them at Adigeni police station. The applicants claim variously that they were physically and verbally abused by the police officers at the protest and in detention, including on the basis of their religion.

In their application before the European Court, the applicants argue that they were ill-treated during the protest and in detention by police who used excessive physical force and Islamophobic hate speech against them, in violation of the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment (Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights – ECHR), the right to respect for private and family life (Article 8 ECHR) and the prohibition of discrimination (Article 14 ECHR). They also complain that the authorities failed to conduct an effective investigation into their allegations, under the procedural limb of Articles 3 and 14 and the right to an effective remedy (Article 13 ECHR).

Systemic discrimination towards religious minorities in Georgia has been the subject of international concern, including by the UN Human Rights Committee, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) and the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights. The Public Defender of Georgia referred to the Mokhe incident in its 2015 report on “The situation regarding the protection of human rights and freedoms”, noting that “one of the main problems is the lack of a timely, adequate and effective response to offences committed on the basis of religious intolerance and hatred.” Although anti-discrimination legislation exists in Georgia, it is not effectively implemented and prosecutions against State officials, such as the police, are rare. The Court’s swift communication of the case underscores the gravity of the authority’s action against the Muslim community in Mokhe.

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