Chairwoman Hautala sent a letter on 17th of February to the Ambassador of Georgia to EU concerning the situation of religious minorities in Georgia, echoing similar calls made at the UN. [:]
H.E. Ms Salome Samadashvili
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Mission of Georgia to the European Union
Avenue de Tervuren 62
1040 Brussels, Belgium
I am writing to you on behalf of the Subcommittee on Human Rights of the European Parliament, on the issue of the status of religious minorities in Georgia.
It has come to our attention that although the constitution of Georgia provides guarantees for freedom of religion, religious minorities appear to suffer de jure and de facto restrictions on their activities. Particularly, we have been informed that while the Georgian Orthodox Church has been recognised as a religious entity of public law through the 2002 Constitutional Agreement, other religious groups are only allowed to register as associations or foundations of private law.
In addition to the issue of legal status, we have been informed that church buildings and properties confiscated during the Soviet era still have not been returned to religious groups such as the Armenian Apostolic Church or the Roman Catholic Church. The absence of legal mechanisms to address this matter has resulted in the deterioration of historic buildings and, ultimately, in the collapse of the St. Gevork of Mughni Armenian Church in Tbilisi.
I am aware that freedom of religion in Georgia has been addressed at UN human rights bodies on several occasions, most recently at the Universal Periodic Review. Your government has committed to “take steps to promote intercultural and inter-religious dialogue and cooperation to strengthen non-discrimination campaigns and to enhance participation of minorities in public life to promote an inclusive society”. Therefore, I underline the need to translate this and other pledges into legislative and administrative measures that ensure effective freedom of religion in your country, in line with previous recommendations from UN bodies and the Council of Europe.
I look forward to your comments on this matter at your earliest convenience.