Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Testimony :: Gennadi Gudadze
- Jehovah’s Witnesses, Tbilisi

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My name is Genadi Gudadze, and I would like to thank the members of the United States Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe for allowing me to testify on behalf of the 15,000 Georgian Jehovah’s Witnesses in Georgia.

My family has been associated with Jehovah’s Witnesses since 1959. Under the Soviet government, we were officially banned. Personally, I spent three years in the Georgian prisons and one-and-a-half-years in Siberia because of my faith. However, even during those difficult times, there was no violence against Jehovah’s Witnesses such as we are experiencing presently in Georgia. Now, it is safe to say that if you attack one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, you will not be prosecuted.

Since 1991, Jehovah’s Witnesses were usually able to meet peacefully throughout Georgia. However, the situation changed abruptly in October 1999. The attack in the Gldani region of Tbilisi came as a surprise to all of us. We expected that the perpetrators, who were well known and recognized, would be prosecuted, and that would end the matter. Instead, two victims of the Gldani attack were prosecuted and convicted. Since then, there have been 133 separate incidents involving either mob attacks, individual attacks or destruction of property.

In your May 15, 2002, letter to President Shevardnadze, you called for vigorous prosecution to punish the perpetrators of mob attacks. Since the Gldani attack on October 17, 1999, 746 criminal complaints have been filed. To date, not one person has been punished. The violence continues.

During the last three years, Jehovah’s Witnesses have been attacked while meeting privately in their homes, and assaulted while walking on the street. Teenagers have been beaten by policemen. Individuals have been kidnapped, dragged into the woods, threatened with rape; others have suffered serious injuries. Attempts have been made to murder an entire family. Elderly people have been savagely beaten and injured, along with pregnant women and children. Large mobs, in the presence of police, have carried out massive attacks, blocked main highways, and attacked busloads of people. I was present at many of the attacks, and have personally interviewed many of the other victims. Attacks continue on a weekly basis.

Despite numerous “paper” investigations by the police and the prosecutor, Vasili Mkalavishvili, his followers, and the group, Jvari, with their leader Paata Bluashvili, have not been brought to justice. As recently as August of this year, both of these religious extremists led their followers to attack and destroy two of our convention sites.

The reign of terror continues. What is the solution? It is very simple. Apply the law, arrest the criminals, and punish policemen who cooperate with them.

Please allow me to introduce a video presentation showing a small portion of the 133 attacks against Jehovah’s Witnesses. Please note that the attacker themselves have filmed most of the video footage.