Discrimination case against MP Tariel Nakaidze
On October 9, 2023, Tariel Nakaidze, a member of the Parliament of Georgia, filed a lawsuit in the Tbilisi City Court. Nakaidze was absent from the Parliament on Kurban Bayram (Eid Al-Adha), an important religious holiday for him. The Parliament decided to deem this absence unauthorised, and Nakaidze’s current lawsuit challenges this decision.
Tariel Nakaidze is a Muslim, which he acknowledges openly, including in the Parliament. His parliamentary speeches and activities are often about the protection of freedom of religion or belief and the rights and equality of religious minorities.
Kurban Bayram, one of the most important holidays of Islam, was celebrated this year on June 28. The Parliament considered the absence of Tariel Nakaidze from the plenary session on June 28 as an unauthorised leave and deducted 10% of his monthly income.
A day before, at the plenary session of the Parliament on June 27, Tariel Nakaidze spoke publicly about the regulation of public holidays in Georgia, noting that it is problematic when representatives of any religious minority within the country are not allowed to have the day of rest on major religious dates for them. In an address to the Speaker of Parliament, he also noted that since Kurban Bayram, one of the most important holidays of Islam, was to be celebrated the following day, adherence to his religious beliefs would effectively mean he would have to miss the June 28 plenary session.
In the Procedural Rules of the Parliament of Georgia, the list of honorable excuses for absence from a plenary session does not include celebrations of important religious holidays. The Parliament did not consider Tariel Nakaidze's preliminary statement either, in which he mentioned that he was effectively forced to miss the plenary session scheduled for June 28.
Tariel Nakaidze found himself subject to discrimination since, according to the Labor Code of Georgia, 17 days are declared as public holidays in Georgia, 10 of which are religious days, and all of them are Georgian Orthodox Church holidays. On the other hand, Tariel Nakaidze, as a representative of a different faith, is not permitted a single day’s absence to celebrate the most important days of his own faith. The regulations of the Parliament do not take into consideration the need for the realisation of freedom of religion or belief and neither allow days taken for religious observance to be classed as reasonable absences.
Thus, in its decision, the Parliament did not take into account the protection of freedom of religion or belief but instead prioritized the observance of the formal requirements of the Parliamentary Regulations. These regulations do not acknowledge that members of the Parliament belonging to religious minorities cannot take leave of absence to celebrate important dates according to their faith. Under such circumstances, the Parliament should have individually assessed Tariel Nakaidze’s case and the significant importance of allowing its members to enjoy the right to freedom of religion and belief and, consequently, should have decided in favor of protecting fundamental human rights.
Considering all the above, it is clear that the Parliament ignores the fundamental right to freedom of religion or belief and discriminates on religious grounds against the non-Georgian Orthodox Church members of the Parliament. The plaintiff, Tariel Nakaidze, fell victim to such discrimination.
Tariel Nakaidze’s lawsuit requires the Parliament to confirm the fact of discrimination against the plaintiff based on religion and belief and to compensate for damages.
We hope that the Tbilisi City Court will grant Tariel Nakaidze’s claim, thus forming a legal precedent to safeguard freedom of religion or belief and equality in Georgia and ensure that members of religious minorities can take holidays on important days in their own faith traditions.
The interests of the Member of Parliament, Tariel Nakaidze, are protected by the Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI) and the Human Rights Clinic of the Ilia State University Law School.
The Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI) conducts strategic litigation with the support of the USAID Rule of Law Program within the framework of the project “Fostering Access to Justice for Religious, Ethnic Minorities and Migrants in Georgia.”