Netherlands authorities: 'Georgia is safe for Zviadists'




On the 26th of June 1997 the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs has published its report on the situation in Georgia. This report is used by the juridical authorities to judge the cases of Georgian asylumseekers in the Netherlands.
The complete report from the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs about Georgia is 29 pages. Here is a translation of the part of the report that speaks about 'Zviadists'.

(beginning of translation...)
2.2.3. Political rights
2.2.3.1. Freedom of political participation; supporters and family-members of Gamsakhurdia.
After Gamsakhurdia was driven out of Tbilisi in January 1992, unrest among his supporters increased. Especially in Mingrelia, Gamsakhurdia's homebase in western Georgia, the support for Gamsakhurdia was great. Gamsakhurdia wanted to continue the struggle against the new Georgian regime 'by all means'. Also in Tbilisi and western Georgia demonstrations took place in support of the dismissed president. Until the turn of the year 1993/1994 (the death of Gamsakhurdia) there have been periods of fierce armed struggle between supporters of Gamsakhurdia (also named Zviadists, after Gamsakhurdia's first name Zviad) and pro- government troops. Especially in the autumn of 1993 this was the case. At the end of 1993 the pro-Gamsakhurdia troops had to be worsted. (In the autumn of 1993 the Zviadists advanced upon close to Tbilisi. Shevardnadze felt obliged to ask the assistance of the Russians. With this help the Zviadists could be defeated. As a result Shevardnadze was more or less forced by Moscow to enter the CIS. Reluctantly this entrance then took place, after which Russia promised its help in the Abkhazian conflict).
The supporters of the late Gamsakhurdia are subdivided in various factions. A number of factions does not recognize the present Georgian regime, and for that reason does not ask for permission, which is generally demanded, to organize demonstrations. When these demonstrations nevertheless are held (outside one of the four areas that have been assigned for this by the Georgian authorities) then there is a chance that the police disperses the demonstration, in which sometimes physical violence is used. (This for instance happened on the 26th of May 1996, the day on which Georgia celebrates its independence, acquired in 1918). In general arrested persons are released again the same day. The attitude of the police towards Zviadists can differ from demonstration to demonstration. Sometimes a demonstration is harshly dispersed, sometimes the police does not react at all. In June 1996 Zviadists organised a "sit-in" during 30 days, against which the police did not take action. Also from the side of the population there was hardly any attention for this action. Apart from that the number of (active) supporters of Gamsakhurdia seems to decrease visibly.
All publications connected to Gamsakhurdia are freely available. Also they (Zviadists) can freely organize press conferences. Also during the parliamentary elections it was obvious that the supporters of the late Gamsakhurdia were subdivided in various factions. The elections were boycotted by the Round Table, but two pro-Gamsakhurdia blocs took part, namely '21st Century', which just did not gain the required 5% and 'Zviad's Way' which also did not reach the quota. (The first candidate of the bloc '21st Century' has stated that from the tentative results that were reported by the election committee has been evident that this bloc had got 12,5% of the votes, but that Shevardnadze after his returnal from abroad on the 7th of November 1995 had ordered that this percentage in the statistics should be brought down to as little as reasonably possible, so that in the published final results '21st Century" just would not have gained the required quota. This version cannot be confirmed, also not after inquiry at various local and international organisations).
That it is possible for a high-ranking Zviadist to have a leading position in the Georgian society today is shown for example by Tamas Gugushvili. Under Gamsakhurdia he was the Minister of Employment and Social Affairs, and at present he is vice-minister of the Ministry for Refugees and Accomodation.
The supporters of Gamsakhurdia are not confronted with political prosecution, but at most with criminal prosecution; this also concerns prominent supporters of Gamsakhurdia. (In the period between 1992 and spring 1994 the situation as different. At that time prosecution of supporters of Gamsakhurdia could certainly contain political elements. For instance before the elections of 1992 supporters of Gamsakhurdia were kept under remand).
There are no signs that the Georgian authorities are falsely accusing political opponents of punishable acts to camouflage political prosecution. (Some organisations have a different opinion about this, like IGFM, International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights and the signers of the letter from Finland, dated 15th April 1997. However this concerns organisations -apart from the IHF, which however is used as an intermediate by the 'Caucasian Research and Information Centre for Human Rights and Conflict Studies'- which are in one way or another or partly (seem to be) allied to (the late) Gamsakhurdia and his suppor- ters. The conclusions which are drawn by these organisations are, based on what is known at our Ministry and various (internatio- nal) organisations, not supported by the facts).
At most it could be possible that the authorities do their utmost to punish supporters of Gamsakhurdia for criminal acts in comparison with non-Gamsakhurdia supporters, that there is a worse access towards legal help, or one has to do with preposses- sion of the judiciary (which cannot be confirmed from our side). A number of very prominent supporters of Gamsakhurdia were convicted for high treason. It concerns highplaced persons who in 1992/93 took an active part in the struggle on the side of the late Gamsakhurdia, and in that struggle have had a leading role. (In that period there was also the struggle in Abkhazia and the Georgian authorities had to divide their attention between the forces of Gamsakhurdia and Abkhazia. They take the view that for this reason they have lost Abkhazia, which was the motive for the Georgian authorities to prosecute those highplaced persons for high treason).
Close relatives of Gamsakhurdia are not prosecuted by the government. A possible exception could be the wife of the late Gamsakhurdia. The Georgian authorities nevertheless have issued a statement from which it should be clear that she can return to Georgia and nothing will happen to her.
Bodyguards of the late Gamsakhurdia do not run the (higher) risk to be prosecuted by the authorities, unless they are guilty of criminal acts.

(end of translation...)

The situation of 'Zviadists' in Georgia is of course completely different. The report of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not speak about torture of political prisoners to get statements for false accusations. When this information is given by certain human rights organisations or other organisati- ons then they are accused of being 'Zviadists' and their information is not concerned being reliable. On the 15th of April 1997 a number of organisations from Finland protested against the policy of the Netherlands authorities about their policy towards asylumseekers from Georgia. The authorities did not reply to this protest, but now the signers are accused of being 'Zviadists'. The new policy of the Netherlands authorities towards real information about Georgia is accusing the authors of this information of 'Zviadism' and because of that unreliability. At the same time the Netherlands authorities have never protested against the illegal coup d'état by the present regime in Georgia, there was never any protest against the forced dismissal of the legitimate president of Georgia, mr. Zviad Gamsakhurdia, who in 1991 democratically was elected as first president of the independent Georgia by almost 90% of the population. In the past the Netherlands authorities always have closed their eyes for the real events in Georgia, they were too blind to see the bloody terror caused by criminal gangs, they were to blind to see a dictator coming into power with the help of these criminal gangs. Now in their report the Netherlands authorities congratulate this dictator, Eduard Shevardnadze, with the increasing level of 'democracy' and 'protection of human rights' in Georgia...
The situation of Georgian asylumseekers in the Netherlands is the result of this cynicism of the policy of the Netherlands authori- ties towards Georgia, a cynicism which results into reports as mentioned above.
Netherlands Helsinki Union, Den Bosch - the Netherlands
Bas van der Plas,
secretary-general Netherlands Helsinki Union.