TBILISI, DFWatch — One would think Georgia’s fresh interior minister would have his hands full, as his government has enforced a mass amnesty which has freed more than three thousand prisoners, but Irakli Gharibashivli says the crime situation in the country hasn’t worsened.
DF Watch caught up with him at a time of assumed crisis, when the government’s opponents are releasing information deliberately meant to discredit his image.
Irakli Gharibashvili though young has visited the US and says America supports Georgia in its reforms and first of all in depoliticizing the police.
The interior minister spoke with DF Watch about the crime situation in the country and future reforms.
I.G: It’s really unclear where this information comes from and what gives them grounds to say this, when nothing special is happening in the country. Crime has slightly increased in October-November, compared to previous months, but afterward became more stable and now is absolute stable, especially considering that so many people have been let out of prison. We think that the majority of them will appreciate that they have been given a chance of a new life, but if they commit new crimes, they will be put back into prison.
We said we won’t let worsening criminal situation in the country and we are responsible for it. That’s why it is absurd that opponents set panic as if country is collapsing and something terrible happens. Even more, these are anti-state statements. The whole ministry, especially the police is working hard and I think the new government is successfully fulfilling its obligations.
Accordingly, if crimes weren’t reported previously, this was their problem. This was a picture created by the censored media. The ministry decided which crimes should be reported and should not. Crime happens in every civilized country. The main thing is that the ministry was effective and able to fight against this crime.
DF: During the previous government, the main complaint against law enforcement bodies, including the Interior Ministry, was that they are conducting illegal wiretapping. You say it is no longer happening. Where is the material recorded by the previous government, and do you plan to destroy it?
I.G: Archives were destroyed when our government came into power, in order to hide the traces of their own crimes. Only legal recordings are kept. However certain material still exist. This material will be destroyed, but on this level there are investigations on certain cases and we cannot destroy them yet, as they need to be investigated.
DF: It is the first time the ministry has published a strategy. What importance does this strategy have and what will it change in terms of the activity of the ministry?
I.G: In order to effectively implement any activity or plan, it is necessary to prepare a strategy which will define certain steps to take. This is an action plan by which the ministry will implement the planned reforms.
It should also be noted that there used to be no such strategy at the ministry. In 2004, certain reforms were conducted, but they were stopped and weren’t brought to an end. They weren’t implemented in the form it was defined from the beginning. Many things were done in the ministry, but unfortunately in the latest period we witnessed that police didn’t turn out to be an institution oriented toward society. That’s why our main goal is to depoliticize the whole ministry, free it from political pressure and orders and to become a structure oriented toward people.
In addition, the strategy focuses on a whole number of issues: defending the rights of people, terrorism, drug crimes, cyber crimes, corruption, road safety.
The agency for reforms and developments, which we have recently set up, is preparing reforms and then the implementation process starts.
DF: Reportedly, the US helped you to prepare those reforms. What was the form of assistance?
I.G: Specialized employees of the US embassy to Georgia were involved in everyday work of preparing the document. In addition, we have foreseen recommendations of different countries and international organizations and by all these, in my opinion, very important document was created.
The main thing is that it will be good for the ministry and first of all, for the country, as police should be free and should serve to people. We should get this function back. Our main goal is to free the police.
DF: What are the levers to free the police?
I.G: When there won’t be a political will to use police as a weapon, everything will get to own place and what’s important, police won’t be pressured under political harassment. No one can name any fact that our government used police for political aims and this is the biggest lever.
Our working style is following that our work will be prof for our declared words. People already see this and we do not use police for our political interests and this is the main difference between previous and new governments.
DF: The strategy also concerns to the drug policy. What is position of the ministry towards this issue? Should there be any type of decriminalization?
I.G: We think drug-addiction is very serious disease of society and fighting with this problem needs well-planned and organized actions. Drug dealing is a very serious crime. That’s why we plan to make fighting stricter in this direction. As I know health ministry seriously works with drug-addicts and in nearest future it will become known what new government plans to do in this direction.
DF: You’ve positively rated your visit to the US. What specific results did those meetings have?
I.G: My visit was very fruitful. I was there on invitation of the American partners and I had very serious meetings. I met with chair of Federal Bureau of Investigation, who expressed full support to new government and to Interior Ministry in regards of implementing goals. They expressed readiness to help in implementation of reforms. It is about material and technical help, as well as intellectual assistance.
I also had interesting meetings with chair of fight against drug agency. We continue work in this direction and there are planned very interesting trainings for the whole year, which should increase our qualification. It is also foreseen to improve technical- material base.
I met with Phillip Gordon at the State Department and his deputy Erik Rubin. I introduced current political situation in Georgia. I told them our government is committed to constructive coexistence. They deplored that normal coexistence isn’t yet normally managed.
It’s very unfortunate when we hear negative and destructive political messages from our political opponents. This, in fact, excludes their readiness and contradicts their statements, that they are ready for coexistence with us.
In addition, I also had very important meeting on American party’s initiative, with Sherwood-Randall, Special Assistance of President Obama. I also told her information about current situation in the country and introduced planned reforms in the country.
They are well-informed and attentively follow current processes in the country and I want to underline that everywhere it is observed open support of the US to Georgia’s new government. I saw this during those meetings and it is very bad that our opponents create black background artificially. But it also should be said that no one believes in their false talking anymore.
DF: What was their main message which Interior Ministry should do?
I.G: Their main message and recommendation is that the ministry continues and finishes reforms, which were started and unfortunately wasn’t implemented to the end. They actively support us in implementation of those goals, so that police came in line with the western standards and oriented to people. So Mr. PM and his new government have full support of the US government.