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NGOs Disapprove Draft on Making Insult of Religious Feelings Punishable

By Tea Mariamidze
Thursday, April 26
NGOs disapprove the draft prepared by the MP Emzar Kvitsiani, according to which insulting of others’ religious feelings will be punishable.

According to the statement of the organizations, such initiative contradicts freedom of expression and attempts to suppress critical thinking in society.

“It is particularly alarming that the idea was supported by the Committee on Human Rights and Civil Integration and its Chair. The members of the Committee share the principle that insulting of the religious feelings should be punishable,” the NGOs stated.

Representatives of civil sector believe that imposing any criminal or legal responsibility for insulting religious feelings is categorically unacceptable for several reasons:

1. It contradicts the Article 24 of the Constitution of Georgia which protects the freedom of expression.

2. It is not in line with the modern European standards.

3. The main recipients of any regulation or responsibility are primarily the groups of society who suffer from discrimination.

4. This definition is vague and subjective.

“We call upon the Parliament of Georgia and, first of all, the Human Rights Committee to pay attention to both constitutional and international standards as well as the needs of the country and do not support this initiative,” the statement reads.

Tariel Nakaidze, chair of the Georgian Muslim Union, said that the draft law, according to which outraging the religious feelings will be punishable, is unacceptable to the Muslim community.

Nakaidze alleges the adoption of this bill is in the interests of the Patriarchate and Orthodox Church.

“I think that the Orthodox Church has more chance to benefit from this law…The Council of Religions and individual religious organizations have numerously made a joint statement that the draft is absolutely unacceptable,” he added.

According to Rusudan Gotsiridze, the bishop of the Evangelical Baptist Church, if the Parliament adopts the bill on insulting religious sentiments, it will be a step backwards.

“It will be a great burden for our immature democracy; it will be an attack on freedom of expression, and media as well…The Christ does not need protection from anyone,” she stated.

Moreover, Patriarch's Secretary, Archpriest Michail Botkoveli stated that the Patriarchate of Georgia supports the adoption of the draft law.

“Presumably, we will meet the authors of the idea to discuss the details. We have a general idea that in many European countries this law is applied in practice,” he said.

The Speaker of Georgian Parliament Irakli Kobakhidze said he will get involved in the discussions about the law.

"The issue will primarily be discussed by the relevant committee and I am ready to be involved in the discussions and make my contribution to this discussion. Ultimately, the Committee will take certain decisions and then the discussion will be held at the plenary session,” he said.