Statement of non-governmental organizations on the incident at the Armenian church
During last two days, the group of non-governmental organizations has been examining the incident that took place at the Armenian Church of St. Etchmiadzin in Tbilisi, on 19 July, 2014. In the process, the group interviewed the victims and several aggressors, evaluated the video footage, which has caught the episodes of conflict. The results of primary analysis of the factual circumstances surrounding the incident demonstrate the presence of ethnic hatred context during the evolution of conflict, which was mostly expressed through verbal abuse on the ground of the ethnic origin. However, motives of ethnic strife or hostility did not dominate the identified reasons of violence. The video footage of incident and explanations of witnesses demonstrated that the private dispute, which later grew into wide-scale aggression, was mostly directed against the specific representatives of the Armenian Church, rather than against church or ethnic group in general. It is noteworthy that some of the aggressors were of Armenian ethnic origin.
Despite of the abovementioned, in view of the mandate and scope of resources of the nongovernmental organizations, we consider it to be important for finding the truth in respect of the incident, that the law enforcement authorities conduct thorough investigation in the case, including the investigation of the influence of ethnic hatred on the perpetrated group violence. In view of the heightened public interest to this case, we call the investigation authorities to ensure that prompt investigation is conducted and its outcomes are available to public. Furthermore, in view of the Armenophobic attitudes present in the society and escalated social atmosphere after the July 19 incident, it is crucial that the police take effective preventive measures to avoid the further aggravation of situation.
We consider that the practice of not addressing duly the hate crimes, which was lately particularly obvious in respect of the acts of violence against religious minorities, fosters the growth of attitudes and atmosphere of intolerance and in the future it can lead to the risk of religious and ethnic conflicts. Therefore, it is important that the state realizes its role in the process and with the use of adequate legal tools and official statements promoting tolerance and equality demonstrates its readiness to ensure the democratic, safe and tolerant environment. In this respect, the State shall pay particular attention to suppression of Armenophobic attitudes and risks entailed by it.
Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI)
Human Rights Education and Monitoring Centre (EMCI)
Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA)
Media Development Foundation (MDF)
Georgian Democratic Initiative (GDI)
Article 42 of the Constitution
Transparency International Georgia (TI)
Analytical Center for Interethnic Cooperation and Consultations (ACICC)
Minority Rights Group (MRG)
Women’s Initiatives Supporting Group (WISG)