Update to GGA33979.E of 8 March 2000 on the treatment of Gamsakhurdia supporters, particularly in Tbilisi and Rustavi [GGA39544.E]

The supporters of Georgia's first president, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, are also referred to as Zviadists in several of the sources consulted (Prime-News 3 Oct. 2000; Kavkasia-Press 26 May 2001; Interfax 7 Mar. 2001; Country Reports 2001 4 Mar. 2002, sec. 1e).

Georgia's constitution permits the peaceful gathering of people without official permission (ibid.). However, according to Country Reports 2000 and 2001, both the local and national governments restrict this right; a 1997 freedom of assembly law obliges political parties and other organizations to give prior notice and obtain permission from the authorities in order to gather publicly (23 Feb. 2001, sec. 2b; 4 Mar. 2002, sec. 2b). Moreover, Country Reports 2000 and 2001 state that whereas most permits are granted "without arbitrary restriction or discrimination ... this is not the case for Zviadists... . The Government viewed the public rallies of the Zviadists as a threat because of the publicity that they generate for themselves and against the Government" (ibid.; 23 Feb. 2001, sec. 2b). The following examples illustrate this situation: on 25 January 2001, a pro-Gamsakhurdia rally was prevented from taking place in Tbilisi because police stopped participants from assembling and reportedly arrested would-be participants (Georgian Television 25 Jan. 2001). A 26 May 2001 illegal demonstration in Tbilisi of between 400 and 600 pro-Gamsakhurdia demonstrators celebrating independence day ended in clashes with police that left between 15 and 25 policemen and an unspecified number of demonstrators injured (AFP 26 May 2001; Kavkasia-Press 26 May 2001; Country Reports 2001 4 Mar. 2002, sec. 2b; RFE/RL 29 May 2001). Three demonstration organizers were also reportedly arrested (ibid.).

However, on other occasions, Gamsakhurdia supporters held public demonstrations and rallies in Tbilisi in order to remember Zviad Gamsakhurdia, or to protest against President Shevardnadze and demand his resignation, and media sources covering these particular events do not describe the gatherings as illegal or report police interference (RFE/RL 3 Apr. 2000; Interfax 7 Mar. 2001; AFP 4 Nov. 2001; ITAR-TASS 2 June 2002). For example, on 31 March 2000, approximately 350-400 people gathered in the capital to remember Gamsakhurdia's birthday, and participants called on the public to boycott the April presidential election (RFE/RL 3 Apr. 2000). Almost a year later, on 7 March 2001, approximately 300 Gamsakhurdia supporters gathered in the capital to acknowledge the tenth anniversary of Shevardnadze's assumption of power (Interfax 7 Mar. 2001). Rally speakers blamed the president for most of Georgia's problems (ibid.). That same day, in the western town of Zugdidi, another pro-Gamsakhurdia rally of less than 50 participants was held and its speakers stated that protest rallies were to be held the following week throughout Georgia when they would also call for Shevardnadze's resignation (ibid.). Later that year, from 31 October to 2 November 2001, between 1,000 and 2,000 Gamsakhurdia supporters and students demonstrated in front of the parliament buildings in Tbilisi to protest against Shevardnadze's government and demand his resignation (AFP 4 Nov. 2001; ITAR-TASS 3 Nov. 2001; ibid. 5 Nov. 2001). Between 40 and 200 protesters continued to demonstrate in front of the parliament for several days (ibid.; AFP 4 Nov. 2001).

The following year, on 31 March 2002, approximately 500 Gamsakhurdia supporters gathered in front of Tbilisi's State Office building to mark Gamsakhurdia's birthday and the 11th anniversary of the independence referendum (TASS 31 Mar. 2002). However, TASS reported that the "speeches were not so radical as they used to be" (ibid.). More recently, on 2 June 2002, approximately 500 protesters, primarily Gamsakhurdia supporters, gathered in front of the Central Electoral Commission building in the capital to demand the resignation of Commission heads and Shevardnadze (ITAR-TASS 2 June 2002).

On 20 April 2000, parliament passed a resolution called "On the Liquidation of the Consequences of the Events of 1991-1992," which condemned Gamsakhurdia's overthrow as the "illegal overthrow of the legitimately elected authorities" (RFE/RL 20 July 2000). Parliament adopted a national reconciliation program designed to heal divisions since Gamsakhurdia's overthrow and to review the cases of those imprisoned during the subsequent civil war (ibid.; AI 2001; Country Reports 2000 23 Feb. 2001, sec. 1e; Country Reports 2001 4 Mar. 2002, sec. 1e). As a result, Shevardnadze announced several amnesties: that same day, 68 Gamsakhurdia supporters serving prison sentences for offences ranging from banditry to treason were released, along with other prisoners (RFE/RL 20 July 2000). On 25 September 2000 another 11 Gamsakhurdia supporters, none of whom had been imprisoned for homicide, were pardoned as part of Shevardnadze's national reconciliation process (RFE/RL 27 Sept. 2000). By the end of 2000, 85 Gamsakhurdia supporters had been released (Country Reports 2000 23 Feb. 2001, sec. 1e; Country Reports 2001 4 Mar. 2002, sec. 1e). However, Country Reports 2001 stated that human rights observers believed that some imprisoned Gamsakhurdia supporters should be considered political prisoners, as they had never taken up arms during the civil war, while others had been convicted on other charges based on weak evidence (ibid.). On 10 July 2001, Georgian TV1 reported that the Prosecutor-General's office had dropped criminal proceedings against 72 Gamsakhurdia supporters who had been accused of various crimes. Their names were removed that same day from police lists (Georgian TV1 10 July 2001). On 12 July 2001, the Prosecutor-General's Office was supposed to close the files of several more individuals (ibid.). Information could not be found among the sources consulted to indicate that this had in fact happened.

On 9 July 2000, Lieutenant Colonel Akaki Eliava, described as one of Gamsakhurdia's "most devoted and charismatic henchmen," was killed by security forces in the western town of Zestafoni (RFE/RL 13 July 2000; ibid. 20 July 2000). In October 1998 Eliava had led an aborted uprising in West Georgia, where he was detained in July 2000, and reportedly shot by police, who were attempting to release his four hostages (ibid. 13 July 2000; ibid. 18 May 2001). However, according to an independent forensic investigation, Eliava was "shot in cold blood" (ibid.). According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), few Georgians believed the official explanation for Eliava's death (13 July 2000).

Sometime in 2001, according to Associated Press (AP), Shevardnadze "signed a decree providing Gamsakhurdia's widow with government security guards, free medical care and telephone service, and the Georgian parliament adopted a bill commemorating Gamsakhurdia" (4 Sept. 2002).

On 26 May 2002 a statue of Gamsakhurdia was unveiled in the town of Zugdidi, West Georgia (TASS 26 May 2002). Approximately 5,000 people attended the ceremony (ibid.).

Information on the treatment of Gamaskhurdia supporters in Rustavi could not be found among the sources consulted.

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) [Paris, in English]. 4 November 2001. "'Around 200' Protestors Demand Resignation of Georgia's Shevardnadze." (FBIS-SOV-2001-1104 4 Nov. 2001/WNC)

_____. 26 May 2001. "Injuries as Georgian Police Clash With Followers of Ex-Leader." (NEXIS)

Amnesty International (AI). 2001. Amnesty International Report 2001. http://web.amnesty.org/web/ar2001.nsf/webeurcountries/GEORGIA?OpenDocument [Accessed 25 Sept. 2002]

Associated Press (AP). 4 September 2002. "Convict in Attack on Georgian Government Minister is Freed Early." (NEXIS)

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2001. 4 March 2002. United States Department of State. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2001/eur/8256.htm [Accessed 23 Sept. 2002]

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2000. 23 February 2001. United States Department of State. http://www.state.gov//g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2000/eur/760.htm [Accessed 23 Sept. 2002]

Georgian Television [Tbilisi, in Georgian]. 25 January 2001. "Police Crack Down on Protesters in Capital Tbilisi." (BBC Summary 27 Jan. 2001/NEXIS)

Georgian TV1 [Tbilisi, in Georgian]. 10 July 2001. "Georgia Drops Charges Against Senior Officials in Gamsakhurdia Government." (FBIS-SOV-2001-0710 10 July 2001/WNC)

Interfax [Moscow, in English]. 7 March 2001. "Some 300 People Attend Opposition Rally in Georgian Capital." (FBIS-SOV-2001-0307 7 Mar. 2001/WNC)

NEXIS describes Interfax as "non-government information agency known for its aggressive reporting, extensive economic coverage, and good coverage of Russia's regions."

ITAR-TASS [Moscow, in English]. 2 June 2002. "Georgia: 500 Demand Resignation of Electoral Commission Heads." (FBIS-SOV-2002-0602 2 June 2002/WNC)

_____. 5 November 2001. "Georgia: About 40 People Continue to Picket Parliament." (FBIS-SOV-2001-1105 5 Nov. 2001/WNC)

_____. 3 November 2001. "Georgia: 'A Mere' 80 Continue Protest Action in Front of Parliament." (FBIS-SOV-2001-1103 3 Nov. 2001/WNC)

Kavkasia-Press (Internet Version-WWW) [Tbilisi, in Georgian]. 26 May 2001. "Georgia: 15 Policemen Injured Dispersing Unauthorized Tbilisi Rally." (FEBIS-SOV-2001-0526 26 May 2001/WNC)

Prime-News News Agency [Tbilisi, in Georgian]. 3 October 2000. "National Security Council Chairman Says Destabilization Can Be Ruled Out." (BBC Summary 4 Oct. 2000/NEXIS)

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). 29 May 2001. Newsline. Vol. 5, No. 101. "Police Forcibly Disperse Georgian Opposition Demo." (listmanager@ list.rferl.org)

_____. 18 May 2001. Newsline. "Lawyer Says Georgian Insurgent Leader Was Executed." http://www.rferl.org/newsline/2001/05/2-tca/tca-180501.html [Accessed 25 Sept. 2002]

_____. 27 September 2000. Newsline. Vol. 4, No. 187. "Georgian President Pardons Imprisoned Oppositionists." (listmanager@list.rferl.org)

_____. 20 July 2000. Caucasus Report. Vol. 3, No. 29. "Can Georgia Achieve National Reconciliation?" http://www.rferl.org caucasus-report/2000/07/29-200700.html [Accessed 25 Sept. 2002]

_____. 13 July 2000. Caucasus Report. Vol. 3, No. 28. "How Stable is Western Georgia?" http://www.rferl.org/caucasus-report/2000/07/28-130700.html [Accessed 25 Sept. 2002]

_____. 3 April 2000. Newsline. Vol. 4, No. 66. "Georgian Opposition Convenes Anti-Election Demo." (listmanager@list.rferl.org)

TASS. 26 May 2002. Eka Mekhuzla. "Monument to First President of Georgia Unveiled in Zugdidi." (NEXIS)

_____. 31 March 2002. Eka Mekhuzla. "Gamsakhurdia Supporters Rally Near Georgian Leader Residence." (NEXIS)

Additional Sources Consulted

Electronic databases: IRB, NEXIS, WNC.

Human Rights Watch World Report 2002. December 2001.

Internet sites, including:

Amnesty International

Human Rights Watch

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty