TDI appeals to court against National Assessment and Examinations Center
On 15 July 2020, the Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI) submitted an injunction application to the Tbilisi City Court against LEPL National Assessment and Examinations Center (NAEC). The NAEC denied a request of two university applicants who are members of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church to sit the English language exam on another day.
On 30 June 2020, two university applicants, members of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, appealed to the NAEC to reschedule their exam on 18 June as they cannot sit it on Saturday because of their religious belief.
Saturday for the Seventh Day Adventist Church is the day of religious observance and abstinence from any work. For members of this Church it is unacceptable to engage in secular activities, including, to sit an exam, on Saturday. This right of members of this religious organization is protected under the freedom of religion and belief recognized by the Constitution of Georgia and international law. A similar problem has also been faced by university applicants practicing Judaism.
According to the response from the LEPL National Assessment and Examinations Center, the request of university applicants was not met because the schedule of exams was already approved.
It is worth noting that the schedule of exams, approved under the decree of 9 June of the Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport, sets three different dates for the English language exams, namely 17, 18 and 19 July. The university applicants, however, learned about a specific date of their exam on 27 June. Consequently, there is a possibility for university applicants, who cannot take the exam on Saturday for their religious belief, to sit it on 17 July or 19 July.
When there is a possibility for the university applicants to take exam on an alternative date and considering that the university applicants have timely applied to the LEPL National Assessment and Examinations Center with the request to reschedule their exam, the refusal of NAEC constitutes a breach of their right to freedom of religion or belief; moreover, the right to education of the university applicants is also breached as due to indifference of the state to the issue these young persons will not be able to take unified national exams in 2020 and to continue their studies in a higher educational institution. The refusal of the state entity is also discriminatory.
It is alarming that the state is insensitive to the freedom of religion or belief and in its decisions, including in planning and conducting unified national exams, ignores this fundamental right.
According to the UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, the right to freedom of religion and belief includes the right to rest on religious holidays.
The injunction application submitted by the TDI on 15 July requests an interim measure of the court to order the NAEC to allow two members of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church to sit the English language exam on 17 July or 19 July or any other day except Saturday.
After the injunction application, the TDI will file a lawsuit to the court requesting the annulment of the refusal to reschedule the exam, the establishment of discriminatory treatment on religious grounds, and the imposition of compensation for damages. The issue is also being studied by the Public Defender (Ombudsperson) of Georgia.
TDI provides legal aid and strategic litigation in the frame of the project “combating discrimination on religious, ethnic and racial grounds through strategic litigation” with the support of East-West Management Institute’s (EWMI) project Promoting Rule of Law in Georgia (PROLoG) funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
 01/07/2020, MES 3 20 0000543509 and MES 9 20 0000544441
 Decree N: MES 5 20 00450500, 09/06/2020
 Article 6 of the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief Proclaimed by General Assembly resolution 36/55 of 25 November 1981; also, General Comment No. 22 of Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, whereby the right to freedom of religion or belief includes a possibility of observance of holidays and days of rest.