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CoE’s Human Rights Body Criticizes Georgia over Hate Crimes
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 1 Mar.'16 / 11:12

Despite some progress by Georgia on anti-discrimination policies and legislation, hate speech and violence against religious and sexual minority groups have increased over the past years, Council of Europe’s (CoE) human rights body, European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), said.

ECRI, composed of independent experts, released its periodic report on Georgia on March 1.

The previous report on Georgia was released by ECRI in April, 2010 and the new one covers the period before mid-June, 2015.
 
“Hate speech against ethnic and religious minorities, as well as against LGBT persons, continues to be a widespread problem in Georgia. Physical attacks against these groups also occur with worrying frequency,” reads the report.

In its comments to the report, the Georgian government responded that “there are no grounds to conclude that those cases take place at worrying frequency.”
 
According to the report there is “a general homo- and transphobic climate in Georgian society and LGBT groups were attacked repeatedly, in particular on the occasion of organising public events to mark the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia.”

It said that the Georgian authorities’ response to those incidents “cannot be considered adequate” and the authorities “did not always sufficiently investigate and prosecute hate crime.”

According to the report, although “lately some attacks and threats against LGBT persons were investigated by the police… they had previously refused or shown reluctance to investigate in a number of cases.”

The report notes that although pursuant to ECRI’s recommendation Georgia introduced in 2012 a clause in the criminal code, which makes bias motives of an offender an aggravating circumstance, application of this provision “is rare and there has not been a single case” in which it was applied with regard to crimes motivated by sexual orientation or gender identity.

According to the report the authorities have “not taken adequate measures to deal with religious intolerance” and also failed to enforce the law to safeguard the rights of religious minorities in several cases of attacks, which were motivated by religious intolerance.

“In some instances they [the authorities] promoted local mediation mechanisms instead, calling upon the dominant Georgian Orthodox Church to negotiate with the local Muslim community in the aftermath of islamophobic attacks,” reads the report.

In the report, which also lists recommendations, ECRI has called on the Georgian authorities to set up a specialized unit within the police to deal specifically with racist and homophobic hate crimes.

It also recommends scaling up the training activities for the judiciary and law enforcement officials on investigating incidents of hate crime.

ECRI has also called for amending the anti-discrimination law, adopted in 2014, to include a duty for public institutions to ensure that parties to whom they award contracts, loans, grants or other benefits respect and promote a policy of non-discrimination.
 
Citing a report from Tbilisi-based Media Development Foundation, ECRI says that several media outlets with xenophobic and homophobic attitudes were awarded advertisement contracts by the government ministries and agencies in 2013-2014.

ECRI recommends that the authorities “review their contracts with media outlets and cancel or not renew them in cases where media are known to engage in racist or homo-/transphobic hate speech. The authorities should also ensure that future contracts contain a clause stipulating that racist or homo-/transphobic hate speech will result in contract termination.”

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