Georgian Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili published an article in the daily 24 Saati (24 Hours) newspaper on May 10 in response to opponents’ allegations of police violence and said that the Georgian police are in a battle against organized crime and the police will not step back in this fight.
Vano Merabishvili says in the article that 21 criminal suspects were killed in police operations in 2005. 16 policemen also died last year, according to Merabishvili. He says that there are no reliable statistics from previous years, “but we can assume that this number [the death rate of criminal suspects] was lower [in previous years].”
“It is easy to explain the reasons behind this fact. Serious criminals would never open fire on the police because they knew that it was always possible to avoid the police through bribes, or through having good connections with high-ranking police officials… Today every criminal knows that neither bribes nor high-profile links will help,” Vano Merabishvili writes.
He also stressed that reforms that have been undertaken in the police sphere have eradicated the widespread practice of torture of detainees.
The Interior Minister also says that over 150 policemen have been arrested over the past 18 months, mainly for taking bribes and violation of human rights.
“The major goal of the police reform is to effectively fight against criminals. Today is a decisive moment in this fight. The police will either be able to finally defeat the ‘thieves-in-law’ [criminal bosses] and the criminal mentality, or our children will have to live in accordance to the rules set by [the thieves-in-law] for decades… We will not step back [in this battle] because these are our children and their security and welfare depends on us,” Merabishvili says.