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Religious feelings and draft bill

By Messenger Staff
Friday, February 5
The Parliamentary committee for human rights said that it supported the majority lawmaker Soso Jachvlianiís draft that might make the insult of religious feelings an administrative offense if the bill is finally approved by Parliament.

Jachvliani said that his draft concerned all religious directions existing in Georgia.

The draft proposes that the offended pay a fine in the event someone is insulted.

The Ombudsman and the civil sector are against the bill, saying that religious feelings are very subjective and it is hard to frame the issue legally.

According to the bill, the offense should be made punishable with a fine of GEL 300 and a repeated offense with fine of GEL 600.

According to the same draft, the desecration of religious buildings and religious edifices should be fined with GEL 500 and a repeat offense with GEL 1,000.

The Head of the Parliamentís Human Rights Committee, Eka Beselia, said that there should be a balance between freedom of expression and peopleís religious feelings.

The opposition and part of the majority Ė in particular the Republicans - are against the draft, saying that it might pose a threat to freedom of expression.

Similar sentiments were voiced by various Non-Governmental Organisations and the Ombudsmanís office, adding that religious feelings are very subjective and it would be hard for the law-enforcers or the court to specify whether the individual had really been insulted or not.

Some NGOs also believe that some lawmakers are trying to please the Patriarchate through the draft in the pre-election period.

On the other hand, they say that the draft might push law-enforcers to act based on their own will using the draft, of course if Parliament supports its approval as law.

There are some foreign countries - including Germany, Austria and Denmark - where insulting religious beliefs is punishable.

The fact is that such laws should be cautiously adopted in developing countries, and the action should be an outcome of a large-scale consensus between a variety different factions and sectors.

Otherwise, there will always be a risk that such a law might be misused and lead to injustice.