Rustavi Municipality Mayor Disregards Public Defender’s Recommendation

On May 24, 2016, the Public Defender of Georgia addressed the Rustavi Mayor with regard to issuing a construction permit to LEPL Latin Catholic Apostolic Administration of the Caucasus; however, as it became known on June 15, the Rustavi Mayor disregarded the Public Defender’srecommendation.

The Catholic Apostolic Administration of the Caucasus was not allowed to build a church on its own land, after which the Public Defender started proceedings into the case on his own initiative.

The case study revealed that in April 2013, the Latin Catholic Apostolic Administration of the Caucasus requested a permit for construction of a church from the Rustavi municipality. After passing the first stage of relevant legal procedures, the applicant requested a simplified construction permit in accordance with the law. However, the statutory deadline expired so that the Rustavi municipality had not made any decision. Therefore, the catholic church appealed to the court, which held that the construction permit was issued. It explained that the catholic church was to request issuance of a relevant document from the administrative body. In 2016 a representative of the catholic church requested a document certifying a construction permit from the Rustavi City Hall, though the agency refused to issue such an act.

During the study of the case, a Public Defender’s representative met with the Rustavi Mayor, who indicated in his explanatory note that the land requested for construction was located in residential zone 5, where construction of a religious building was unacceptable at that time.

Later, the study revealed that information provided by the Mayor was not in compliance with the construction regulations and that construction of a religious building in residential zone 5 was permitted.

In response to the Public Defender's recommendation the Rustavi Mayor pointed out that the construction issue was still being considered in the court and that the administrative body would act only in accordance with the court decision. Unfortunately, effective realization of freedom of religion of the catholic church is delayed and not ensured.

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