TBILISI, DFWatch–On November 23 last year, shots were fired at a building used by Jehovah’s Witnesses in Vazisubani, a district in the Georgian capital Tbilisi.
When bullets slammed into the building again one week later, a lawyer representing the religious community wondered why the police were not using footage from their surveillance cameras to solve the case.
No-one was detained, and at years end, the case was still under investigation.
Human rights workers have pointed out the slow and sometimes non-existent response from law enforcement to acts of violence or discrimination against religious minorities in Georgia.
Jehovah’s Witnesses in Georgia recorded 51 cases of discrimination or violence in 2015, according to according to a report (PDF, 162kb) published last week by the U.S. State Department.
Among the incidents were scolding, dispersal of religious ceremonies, damage to property, vandalism, interruption into the handing out of flyers or placing stands on the streets.
“In April, Jehovah’s Witnesses reported they received a threatening letter from residents of Terjola, who warned of massive protests if they continued construction of a kingdom hall there and said they would be ‘held responsible’,” the report reads.
“Local GOC church leaders stated someone was trying to provoke confrontation and make it appear that the GOC was persecuting the Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
The Prosecutor General’s Office investigated 20 criminal cases that had a religious motivation; 18 of them about crimes directed at Jehovah’s Witnesses and two against Muslim communities, the U.S. State Department writes in the report, which surveys the level of religious freedom across countries.
Five of these cases, all involving Jehovah’s Witnesses, led to prosecutions and convictions – two were fined and three sentenced to community service. Seven cases were terminated without further action due to lack of evidence, while eight investigations remained pending at year’s end.
“The government also concluded three investigations it began in 2014, resulting in the prosecution and conviction of three defendants for their acts against Jehovah’s Witnesses. Of the three defendants, two were fined and one was sentenced to a year of imprisonment,” the report concludes.
65 cases of violence against Jehovah’s Witnesses were reported in 2014.