Tolerance and Diversity Institute


The Court of Appeals has found discrimination based on religion in the case of Seventh-Day Adventists

On February 19, the Tbilisi Court of Appeal rendered a precedent-setting decision. It upheld TDI's appeal, recognizing indirect discrimination based on religion against two university applicants of the Seventh-Day Adventist faith. The court ordered the National Assessment and Examinations Center to pay them moral damages, symbolically in the amount of 1 Georgian Lari each. With this ruling, the Court of Appeal overturned the decision of the Tbilisi City Court, which had dismissed the claim regarding discriminatory treatment and denied the request for symbolic compensation for moral damages.

The Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI) has been defending the rights of these two university applicants from the Seventh Day Adventist Church since 2020.

The applicants initially approached the LEPL National Assessment and Examination Center (NAEC) on June 30, 2020. They asked to be allowed to sit the exam on any other day except Saturday since they could not attend the exam on Saturday because of their religious belief. 

The NAEC unjustly and without valid grounds rejected the applicants' request, thus infringing upon their freedom of religion and belief, right to education, and equality.

On July 15, 2020, TDI filed an injunction application seeking a court order for the NAEC to allow the two Seventh-Day Adventist Church members to take the English language exam on either July 17 or July 19 or any other day except Saturday. The court granted the application, enabling the applicants to sit for the exams on an alternative day.

Subsequently, on July 24, 2020, TDI filed a lawsuit on behalf of the applicants with the Tbilisi City Court, seeking to establish discrimination based on religion and to redress the consequences of discrimination by annulling the contested decision and ordering the Center to pay symbolic compensation of 1 Lari for moral damages.

On April 20, 2022, the Tbilisi City Court partially upheld the students' request. It annulled the contested decision of the National Assessment and Examination Center, which had restricted the applicants' ability to reschedule the exam date. However, the Court did not recognize the discrimination claim or order the Center to pay symbolic compensation for moral damages.

In August 2022, TDI appealed the Tbilisi City Court's decision to the Tbilisi Court of Appeals. The court hearing took place on February 5, 2024, with a panel of three judges (Nana Daraselia as Chair, Dimitri Gvritishvili, and Ilona Todua), and the decision was announced on February 19, 2024. The Court upheld TDI’s appeal, finding indirect discrimination against the applicants on religious grounds and ordering the LEPL National Assessment and Examination Center to pay symbolic moral damages of 1 Georgian Lari to each applicant.

This case and the decision of the Tbilisi Court of Appeals hold significant precedential value. Besides safeguarding the fundamental rights of the two applicants, this case is pivotal in upholding the freedom of religion and belief, equality, and educational rights of religious minorities in Georgia.

We anticipate that the Tbilisi Court of Appeals' decision in the case of Seventh-Day Adventist applicants will serve as a crucial milestone for religious minorities in Georgia to secure their rights to observe holidays and rest days both in workplaces and educational institutions.

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.”