Public Defender's Establishes Direct Discrimination on Ground of Religion during Crossing of Borders of Georgia by Muslims

On April 24, 2017, the Public Defender of Georgia addressed the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia and the LEPL Revenue Service of the Ministry of Finance with a recommendation concerning discrimination on the ground of religion. The applicants’ interests were represented at the Public Defender’s Office by the Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC) and the Tolerance and Diversity Institute (non-commercial legal entity).

It is indicated in the recommendation that the visa-passport control bodies – the Patrol Police Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Customs Department of the Revenue Service create obstacles for Muslims during crossing the Sarpi customs checkpoint. In particular, Muslims are stopped and asked questions about their appearance, religion and lifestyle. At the same time, all the conditions are created for them to voluntarily give up their own religious literature. Accordingly, the Public Defender concluded that the applicants' freedom of religion was violated through restricting their freedom of movement and property rights.

The Public Defender noted that protection and control of borders, as a rule, is one of the strategic aims of the state, though it should not involve unnecessary interference with the fundamental human rights, especially in the cases when the rights are restricted only on the ground of religion.

Bearing the above in mind, the Public Defender called on the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Revenue Service to carry out control and customs procedures at the checkpoints in observance of religious neutrality and on an individual basis. In addition, in order to raise awareness of the principle of equality and religious neutrality, the officers, which directly carry out passport-visa control and customs procedures at the checkpoints, should be gradually trained.

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