Jehovah’s Witnesses have been active in Georgia since 1953. They are legally registered and generally worship without hindrance. However, some problems persist, as religious intolerance occasionally resurfaces.
From 1999 to 2003, religious extremists unleashed a vicious and unrelenting wave of violence against Jehovah’s Witnesses. The attackers were emboldened because law-enforcement authorities refused to punish them. During that time, an ultranationalist member of parliament temporarily succeeded in having the Witnesses’ legal entities deregistered, and this contributed to the escalation of violence. The Witnesses filed six applications with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to resolve the problems. The ECHR rendered two unanimous judgments, in 2007 and 2014 respectively, that condemned the government for not handling the religiously motivated criminal acts promptly, effectively, and without bias toward the victims. In 2015, the ECHR unanimously accepted the government’s admission that it had unjustly deregistered the Witnesses’ legal entities in 2001.
Since 2004, the violence against Jehovah’s Witnesses has diminished considerably. They have been able to expand their activities and build numerous Kingdom Halls. However, at times, they are still the victims of religiously motivated attacks and harassment. The problem is compounded because government authorities often fail to respond to these criminal acts. The Witnesses expect the government of Georgia to comply fully with the ECHR’s judgments, to investigate acts of violence promptly, and to prosecute those responsible.