The Parliament of Georgia convened on March 22 to hear a report from Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze on what the opposition has described as “dramatically increased” crime rates in recent months.
This marked the first time a government official appeared before the legislature in the interpellation format under the Parliament’s new Rules of Procedure – an instrument obliging government officials to respond to lawmakers’ pre-submitted questions from the Parliament rostrum.
MP Roman Gotsiridze, who petitioned the Prime Minister on the issue, took the floor first, saying crime rates have increased due to a sense of impunity and the government’s permissiveness.
“The authorities are supporting criminals because they need them for various reasons, including for electoral purposes… They are unable to cope with the crime, because they are themselves supporting crime, they are committing crimes against businesses and contributing to this grave situation,” he said.
In his rebuttal statement, PM Bakhtadze said the opposition is “manipulating” with numbers. “Arguing that there is catastrophic situation in terms of crime, is just not true,” he noted.
Bakhtadze said the 54% year-on-year growth in crime rates in 2018 was due to improved recording standards. “We changed our approaches to recording crime statistics, and we made it more concrete, accurate and transparent.”
The PM stressed the rates of grave and particularly grave crimes have “either decreased or have not changed at all.” He also said the growth could be attributed to increased reporting of crimes that previously were left unregistered.
“The rates have grown because of increased public awareness on certain crime categories such as domestic violence, verbal threats etc, as well as due to implemented reforms and increased trust towards the police,” he said.
“No one argues that there are no problems; unfortunately, some parts of the society are still loyal to criminal mentality, and this is a serious problem, but on the other hand, we have already experienced the negative consequencies of the previous government’s zero tolerance policy,” Bakhtadze noted.
“We are countering crime with lawful policies, because democracies do not fight crime at the expense of human rights and this will never happen in Georgia,” he added.
The Prime Minister also said the Interior Ministry is currently implementing “fundamental” reforms, which will make the police “more effective and more productive.”