"No To Phobia’s" statement on the exception of Christmas Eve
The civil platform "No To Phobia!" responds to the statements made by the Prime Minister and the Vice-Prime Minister of Georgia about the planned exceptions to the curfew. The Platform calls on the Georgian authorities to consider principles of equality and rule of law when imposing restrictions, as well as exceptions, and not to set a new precedent for discrimination.
By the decision of the Inter-Agency Coordination Council, from 28 November 2020, the curfew will be set across the country from 21:00 to 05:00. The exception will be the night of December 31 (New Year) and January 6-7 (Christmas). In this regard, the statement of the Deputy Prime Minister, Maia Tskitishvili, should be noted: "... An exception was made due to the consideration of our population, namely, most of our population is Orthodox and celebrates Christmas on the night of January 6-7, hence the basis of the exception. "[This restriction] is lifted on this particular day because it affects most of the population of Georgia, and applies to virtually everyone."
The civic platform "No To Phobia" believes that setting an exception to the restriction for the night of January 6 is a discrimination on the grounds of religion, and yet another statement by the government disregarding religious minorities as equal citizens. In this regard, Maia Tskitishvili's statement is particularly alarming as, contrary to the principles of the rule of law (which presupposes respect for and protection of minority rights), it clearly indicates that the government makes decisions only from the perspective of the majority. Today, consolidation of the communities and a clear emphasis on the equality is especially important, however the government, with such statements, further divides people into first- and second-class citizens and deepens the feeling of injustice.
It should be noted that this is not the first time when high-ranking Georgian government officials have made unconstitutional statements during the pandemic. In the spring, the Prime Minister declared that Georgia was an Orthodox state, thus in turn emphasizing the superiority of one religion and disregarding the fundamental principle of interdependence of state and religion.
Additionally, decisions and statements of the government have once again revealed the negative role of the State Agency for Religious Affairs under the Prime Minister. The agency's mandate includes advising the Prime Minister and the government on the issues of religious freedom; however, the agency has repeatedly proven that instead of protecting religious freedom and equality of religious associations, it promotes privileges for the Orthodox Church. This was well reflected in the decisions made by the state during the pandemic.
In view of the above, the civic platform "No To Phobia!" calls on the Government of Georgia:
- To act in accordance with the constitutional principles of the rule of law and to apply the principles of secularism, equality to all religious associations;
- To rethink the importance of religious freedom and consult with the wide range of religious organizations prior to making similar decisions.
Georgian Democracy Initiative (GDI)
Media Development Foundation (MDF)
Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI)
Georgia's Reforms Associates (GRASS)
Human Rights Center (HRC)
Institute for Democracy and Safety Development (IDSD)
Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA)
International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED)
 According to the General Comment 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the state is not permitted to take discriminatory measures against religious minorities on the grounds that the majority of the population is a follower of another denomination (para. 9) https://www.equalrightstrust.org/ertdocumentbank/general%20comment%2022.pdf .