Georgia, the JWs & human rights again: Tsartsidze & Ors

Background

In Tsartsidze & Ors v Georgia [2017] ECHR 51, the applicant Jehovah’s Witnesses alleged that in 2000 and 2001 they had been intimidated and attacked by Orthodox religious extremists and the Georgian authorities, including the police. In five separate incidents, some had been prevented from attending a religious meeting when stopped at a police checkpoint, while others had had their religious meetings disrupted or had been stopped in the street by the police when in possession of religious tracts. Some had been taken to police stations and either beaten up or forced to sign written undertakings not to hold any more gatherings in the future. All alleged that religious items and literature had been confiscated or stolen from them, and in one case had subsequently been publicly burned. The events described by six of the applicants in two of the incidents had already been examined in Begheluri & Ors v Georgia [2014] ECHR 1032, which we noted here.

The complaint

Before the Fourth Section ECtHR, the applicants argued that their right under Articles 9 and 14 ECHR freely to practise their religion via, inter alia, meetings and the distribution of religious literature had been violated. They also alleged breaches of the rights guaranteed by Articles 6 (fair trial), 8 (private and family life), 11 (assembly and association) and 13 (effective remedy), and of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (property).

The relationship with Begheluri was a complicating factor. The Government argued that two of the cases could not be re‑examined because they had already been addressed in Begheluri [61]. The applicants countered that what had been at stake in Begheluri had been the alleged ineffectiveness of the criminal justice system in the face of large-scale, religiously-motivated persecution in Georgia at the material time. The instant case, however, raised a distinct issue of the alleged inadequacy of civil and administrative legal remedies [62].

The judgment

The Fourth Section ECtHR held that the two complaints previously examined in Begheluri were inadmissible [68]. As to the other complaints, however, the Court held that in seven of the cases there had been a violation of Article 9 taken separately and in conjunction with Article 1. No separate issue arose under Articles 6, 8 and 11  and on those parts of the complaints the Court made no separate finding.

As to the complaints under A1P1, the Court noted that domestic remedies under that Article were not normally detachable from the alleged interference complained of. So where a breach of property rights and a refusal to redress it had occurred, respectively, before and after the entry into force of A1P1 with respect to the state in question, the date of the latter act was immaterial for the determination of the Court’s temporal jurisdiction. The three violent incidents complained of had taken place in 2000 and 2001 and had not produced any continuing situation under A1P1; and the subsequent judicial proceedings were, according to the Court’s case-law, immaterial. Since A1P1 had not entered into force with respect to Georgia until June 2002, the applicants’ complaint about the alleged breach of their property rights was inadmissible ratione temporis with the provisions of the Convention and had to be rejected [90].

Cite this article as: Frank Cranmer, "Georgia, the JWs & human rights again: Tsartsidze & Ors" in Law & Religion UK, 17 January 2017, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2017/01/17/georgia-the-jws-human-rights-again-tsartsidze-ors/

3 thoughts on “Georgia, the JWs & human rights again: Tsartsidze & Ors

  1. The decision suggests that the rights of JWs in Georgia are now protected since 2002.
    Is that correct?
    According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_Jehovah%27s_Witnesses#Georgia, ‘On May 3, 2007, the European Court of Human Rights ruled against the government of Georgia for its toleration of religious violence toward Jehovah’s Witnesses and ordered the victims be compensated for moral damages and legal costs.’
    JWs’ rights in Malawi in the 1970s were non-existent and they are under attack in Russia.
    To be honest, I consider the JWs to be a case of mass cult insanity but that is no good reason to persecute them in the way that various national authorities have done.

    • Yes, insofar as they are protected by the ECHR. But quite a lot of religious persecution goes on in states that are parties to the ECHR nonetheless – especially of religious communities that are regarded as ‘sects’ (whatever that might mean). We usually only get to hear about it when it ends up in Strasbourg.

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