Treatment of Megrelians who are supporters of the former president Zviad Gamsakhurdia by the state and by society (October 1997 - September 1998) [GGA30094.E]

A 21 March 1998 Pravda Five article states:

The Georgian authorities have decided to make peace with their irreconcilable opponents, who recently were in diverse armed opposition detachments, writes Pravda Five. It has been decided to form parliamentary groups which will conduct the social and political adaptation of the former enemies of the present regime and guarantee their security. Speaker Zurab Zhvania said it was desirable that all the Zviadists [supporters of the deceased Georgian ex-President Zviad Gamsakhurdia] finally "return from the forests."

Special attention is planned to be paid to Megrelia, a region in the country where there are especially many Zviadists and which suffered the hardest from the civil war. President Eduard Shevardnadze has admitted the guilt of the authorities for what happened as a result of the armed conflict.

The authorities say that Megrels, responding to this call for peace, are emerging from the forests and handing over large amounts of arms to the state security bodies.

However, the paper writes, at the same time a witch-hunt for dissidents is under way in Georgia, and the communists are the first victims. Shevardnadze speaks about a threat of the left-wing opposition turning into radical fundamentalists, just like Zviadists were, Pravda Five says.

No further references to Megrelians who are supporters of former president Zviad Gamsakhurdia could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. The following information pertains to the treatment of supporters, without reference to their ethnicity, of the late Zviad Gamsakhurdia.

A 15 February 1998 ITAR-TASS article states:

Press reports claiming that the Georgian police had allegedly detained son of Zviad Gamsakhurdia - Giorgiy - and several supporters of the ex-president were bluntly refuted by Georgian First Deputy Prosecutor General Revaz Kipiani on Sunday. Giorgiy Gamsakhurdia is staying in Tbilisi and neither he nor supporters of his father have been detained, Kipiani told Itar-Tass. The pronouncement followed a report of the Tbilisi Ahali Taoba newspaper, claiming that three supporters of the ex-president, including his 21-years-old son Giorgiy, were detained in Signakhi, eastern Georgia, and put in custody in Tbilisi. The newspaper referred to sources in the circle of the ex-president's supporters.

A 23 February 1998 Georgian Radio emission states that "Last year, the Georgian president gave orders for the pardoning of 52 convicts on death row. Some 2,500 convicts, charged with various crimes, were also pardoned, including supporters of the former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia."

A 27 February 1998 AFP article states:

Georgian authorities have released 12 gunmen who participated in the kidnapping of four UN military observers, Interfax news agency reported on Friday. The group surrendered to police at the conclusion of a crisis in which supporters of late president Zviad Gamsakhurdia held the UN observers and six civilians hostage for a week in western Georgia....Esaybua [the leader of the kidnappers] said he had organized the hostage-taking to highlight the Georgian authorities' "massive repression" of Gamsakhurdia supporters in the aftermath of this month's attack [on the current president, Eduard Shevardnadze].

A 5 April 1998 AFP article states:

Five people were killed and 10 injured Sunday when a lone gunman attacked a funeral procession for a Georgian militant suspected of masterminding the February kidnapping of UN observers, official sources said. The unidentified assailant opened fire with an automatic weapon and threw a grenade at the group of 1,000 mourners in the western town of Zugdidi to pay respects to Gocha Essebua, according to a radio station run by the security ministry. Essebua himself was shot dead last Tuesday when police, tracking him down after the peaceful resolution of the kidnapping, cornered him and his accomplices in a house in a village in western Georgia. The security ministry said Essebua had refused to surrender to the police and had instead started the gunfight in which he was fatally wounded.

In a 12 May 1998 Kavkasia-Press News Agency article, the president of the All-Georgian Human Rights Association, Giorgi Kervalishvili, stated that "there are over 100 political prisoners in Georgia. They are representatives and supporters of the constitutional leadership [of former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia]."

For further information on the treatment by the authorities of supporters of the late Zviad Gamsakhurdia, consult pages 1089 and 1090 of Country Reports 1997, which is available at Regional Documentation Centres.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Agence France Presse (AFP). 5 April 1998. "Five Killed at Funeral of Georgian Kidnapper of UN Observers." (NEXIS)

_____. 27 February 1998. "Georgian Authorities Release UN Observers' Kidnappers." (NEXIS)

Georgian Radio [Tbilisi, in Georgian]. 23 February 1998. "Government Issues Statement on Hostage Taking in Zugdidi." (NEXIS)

ITAR-TASS News Agency. 15 February 1998. Iya Barateli. "Georgian Official Refutes Detention of Gamsakhurdia's Son." (NEXIS)

Kavkasia-Press News Agency [Tbilisi, in Georgian]. 12 May 1998. "Human Rights Activist Says There are Political Prisoners in Georgia." (BBC Summary 14 May 1998/NEXIS)

Pravda Five. n.d. Vladimir Statsky. "Not All Have Been Allowed to Return From the Forest." (Russian Press Digest 21 Mar. 1998/NEXIS)

Additional Sources Consulted

Amnesty International Report. 1998.

Electronic sources: IRB databases, Internet, NEXIS/LEXIS, REFWORLD, WNC.

Minority Rights Group International Report [London]. November - December 1997.

Transition [Prague]. October 1997 - August 1998.

World Directory of Minorities [London]. 1997.

Resource Centre country file on Georgia.

Two oral sources contacted did not provide information on the requested topic.

Unsuccessful attempts to contact other oral sources.