Government Unleashes Terror Against People of Georgia

Urgent Statement of the Chavchavadze Center

Last night around midnight, a criminal gang organized by the Georgian government viciously assaulted Gia Japaridze, a board member and senior researcher at the Chavchavadze Center, outside his home in Tbilisi. Japaridze is currently hospitalized with a concussion, stitches, and head trauma from the attack.

The assault on Japaridze occurred simultaneously with similar brutal attacks on Dimitri Chikovani, a senior member of Georgia's largest opposition party, and Lasha Ghviniashvili, one of the organizers of the “scooter protests” in Tbilisi. At the same time, GD-backed thugs picketed the home of prominent civil society leader Alexander Zibzibadze with banners labeling him an "agent," while trying to break into the residence of a UNM member Giorgi Oniani.

This campaign of violence comes amid a torrent of "telephone terror," with thousands of activists and their families receiving menacing calls and death threats from anonymous callers calling from non-Georgian numbers, often targeting children and minors.

Earlier in the day, Shalva Papuashvili, the chairman of Georgia's parliament and one of the leaders of the ruling Georgian Dream party, announced plans to compile and publish the personal data of Georgian citizens deemed by the government to be involved in "violence and illegal activities," including those expressing “support” for such activities on social media – effectively authorizing a witch hunt against the country's democratic forces.

The crackdown has intensified since the reintroduction of a Kremlin-inspired “Russian Law” on April 4, and the shocking April 29 speech by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, the de facto ruler Georgia. Ivanishvili blamed Russia's invasions of Georgia and Ukraine on a "global war party" whose agents he claimed control the EU, vowed to outlaw the opposition parties (“collective UNM”), and effectively stated he would not concede power in October's elections under any circumstances, emphasizing that he is not as weak as Yanukovich.

With the "Russian law" seemingly already in effect and the suppression of the opposition, civil society, and free media actively underway, Georgia's pro-Western future hangs in the balance. The country's democratic forces have realized the government has betrayed the Georgian people and taken the Kremlin’s side in Russia's wider war against the West. Merely protesting and hoping for free and fair elections in October would be naïve at best. Georgians need active, concrete, urgent support from European and American allies, as the narrowing window to uphold democracy rapidly closes.