Public Defender’s Statement on Events Developed in Buknari Village of Chokhatauri Municipality
The Public Defender of Georgia is responding to the conflict developed on the religious ground in the village of Buknari, Chokhatauri Municipality.
According to reports, Muslim parishioners bought a house with their own funds, where they used to gather to pray. This fact provoked protests of the local Orthodox population, which later escalated into a physical confrontation.
The Public Defender emphasizes that all persons residing in Georgia shall enjoy freedom of religion in accordance with the Constitution, which includes the right to perform and participate in religious rituals. It is the duty of the State to promote the equal enjoyment of this right by all. At the same time, the State must maintain social peace among believers neutrally and impartially, as the country's democracy and pluralism depend on neutrality and impartiality.
It should be noted that this is not the first case when the religious rituals of the Muslim community caused dissatisfaction among the Orthodox population. It is unfortunate that the perpetrators of violence against Muslims in 2012-2016 have not been held accountable (in some cases, Muslims indicated the alleged use of force by law enforcement officers). Prompt and effective response to these types of cases is essential to prevent similar incidents in the future.
The Public Defender calls on the law enforcement agencies to take appropriate measures to prevent violence, de-escalate the conflict and investigate the case in a timely and effective manner, as well as to ensure that Muslim religious rituals can be performed in a safe and peaceful environment.
The Public Defender also calls on the local authorities to take effective measures to ensure that all citizens have equal access to freedom of religion and to promote the peaceful coexistence of people of different faiths.
Kokkinakis v. Greece, 1993, §33.
Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia and Others v. Moldova, 1999, §115–116.