Interior Minister Irakli Garibashvili said on November 28, that “there is no reason whatsoever to claim that crime situation in the country is deteriorating.”
“Recently I’ve been hearing that crime situation is deteriorating – that’s not true,” he told journalists after a government session. “There is nothing to hide that there has possibly been an increase in rate of petty thefts, but it has its objective reasons; in particular, during the process of government handover in October… a certain vacuum emerged [in the police leadership], police were demoralized, they were receiving no instructions from their superiors.”
“We have completed all the major staff changes in key structures about ten days ago and the police are now working with full load,” the Interior Minister said.
Concerns about possible rise in crime rate have been fueled by a proposal on broad amnesty for inmates and those having suspended sentences.
The Parliament has started discussions of a draft law on amnesty, co-sponsored by Georgian Dream MP Eka Beselia, who chairs parliamentary committee for human rights.
Although the government supports the amnesty, it took a cautious approach and called on the Parliament to pass a bill that would grant amnesty to fewer convicts than proposed by existing draft law.
The proposed draft, if approved in its current form, will apply amnesty to persons convicted for wide range of crimes. The draft envisages several forms of amnesty such as complete exemption from punishment for those with suspended sentences; release of those inmates convicted for crimes caused by reckless imprudence; release of those convicted for “less grave crimes”, but the draft lists over a dozen of “less grave crimes” which should not fall under the amnesty (among them sexual assault; vote-buying and other election-related crimes; encroachment upon the right to freedom of speech and assembly etc.).
The draft also envisages halving of prison sentence for juvenile and female inmates, as well as for those inmates who have no previous criminal record but are now convicted for “grave” and “especially grave crimes”; the draft lists over 80 categories of crimes in which halving of prison sentence will apply if the proposal is approved (among them trafficking; robbery; forgery; extortion; crimes related to nuclear material and radioactive sources; drug-related crimes; disobedience in the army; mutiny etc.). In addition, the draft law on amnesty envisages reducing prison sentences by one-third for those convicted for grave and especially grave crimes.
According to the ministry for penitentiary system, if the draft law on amnesty is approved in its current form, about 3,000 inmates will be released and about 5,000 inmates will become eligible to apply for pre-term release because their prison terms will be either halved or reduced by one-third.
At a hearing of parliamentary committee for human rights on November 27 prosecutor’s office, interior ministry and ministry for penitentiary system presented long list of those crime categories, which they think should not fall under the amnesty. If lawmakers take into consideration this recommendation number of those, whom the amnesty can apply, will be reduced.
PM Bidzina Ivanishvili said at a news conference on November 22 that amnesty could “at some point” lead to increase in crime rate “to a certain extent”; he said: “The society should meet it with understanding.”
Georgian Dream lawmaker, Koba Davitashvili, has proposed to pass a legislative amendment that will automatically apply aggravating factor if a crime is committed by a person to whom an amnesty was granted.