97 members of the Gldani Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses and 4 Others v. Georgia (Application no. 71156/01)

Key paragraph(s) can be found below the document.


133. In the instant case, on account of their religious beliefs, which were considered unacceptable, the 96 applicants were attacked, humiliated and severely beaten during their congregation’s meeting on 17 October 1999. Their religious literature was confiscated and burnt, and the applicants themselves were forced to look at the fire. One of the applicants, Mr A. Khitarishvili, had his head shaved to the sound of prayers, by way of religious punishment. Having been treated in this way, the applicants were subsequently confronted with total indifference and a failure to act on the part of the authorities (see paragraphs 119, 123 and 124 above), who, on account of the applicants’ adherence to a religious community perceived as a threat to Christian orthodoxy, took no action in respect of their complaints. Deprived of any remedy, the applicants could not enforce their rights to freedom of religion before the domestic courts. As the attack against the applicants on 17 October 1999 constituted the first act of large‑scale aggression against the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the authorities’ negligence opened the doors to a generalisation of religious violence throughout Georgia by the same group of attackers (see paragraphs 43, 61, 65 and 68 above). The applicants were thus led to fear that they would be subjected to renewed violence on each fresh manifestation of their faith.

134. Having regard to those circumstances, the Court considers that, through their inactivity, the relevant authorities failed in their duty to take the necessary measures to ensure that the group of Orthodox extremists led by Father Basil tolerated the existence of the applicants’ religious community and enabled them to exercise freely their rights to freedom of religion. 



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