Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe (CoE), Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, said a legislative amendment on religious minorities’ legal status was “an important and progressive step.”
"I welcome the adoption of amendments to the Civil Code of Georgia to allow the registration of religious groups as religious associations,” Maud de Boer-Buquicchio said in an in an emailed statement to Civil.ge on July 11. “This is an important and progressive step that will go a long way to ensuring a more open and tolerant approach towards the practice of religious belief in Georgia.”
“Let it not be forgotten that the European Convention of Human Rights clearly states that every individual has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; these amendments to the Code will provide a more solid foundation for the protection of these rights,” she said.
In its April, 2011 resolution on the honoring of obligations and commitments by Georgia, the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe said it was "concerned by the lack of a proper legal status of, and legal protection for, denominations and faiths other than the Georgian Orthodox Church."
The resolution called on Georgia to "adopt a specific law on religion that would offer proper and equal legal status and protection to all faiths and denominations in the country." Although no specific law on religion was adopted, the authorities decided to address the issue through amending civil code by allowing religious minorities to be registered as legal entities of public law.
In a written statement released also on July 11 co-rapporteurs of CoE’s Parliamentary Assembly on implementation of Georgia’s commitments, Michael Aastrup Jensen and Kastriot Islami, also welcomed the legislative amendment.
“This is an important improvement for all religious communities in Georgia and follows recommendations by the Assembly. It reaffirms the respect given by Georgia for the right of freedom of religion and principle of inter religious tolerance”, the co-rapporteurs said.