magazine spoke about the issue of criminal statistics and indicated that detailed statistical data on crime in Georgia has not been published since March 2013 and asked the Prime Minister to take this fact into consideration. In response to this remark, Irakli Gharibashvili declared: “The Ministry is absolutely transparent and open. Show interest, ask for statistics… Statistical data was published every day during my service at the Ministry. It was my good will, although it has never been an obligation.”FactCheck
looked deeper into the accuracy of the Prime Minister’s abovementioned statement.FactCheck has been keeping an eye on criminal statistics in Georgia after Eka Beselia’s statement made in the Parliament of Georgia on 7 August 2013 about the decrease in the number of crimes. At the beginning of its research, FactCheck
analysed the information presented on the website of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Of note is that crime statistics were published according to categories, months and regions during the period 2004-2012 and the information was also accessible in the website’s archives (the archives, however, are no longer accessible dating to 2013).In August 2013 FactCheck withdrew detailed information on the crime statistics of 2011, 2012 and 2013 from the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia by months and categories of crime. The response to our request was delivered in one month’s time instead of the obligatory ten days; however, it did not contain any complete data since the information was not provided by months. In addition, the information was not categorised by types of crime as originally requested by FactCheck. Instead of providing data for up to 80 types of crimes, the Ministry sent information for only 14 types. For 2011, 2012 and the first eight months of 2013, the letter contained only summarised information. Therefore, for its first attempt FactCheck
was not able to obtain complete information about crime statistics from the Ministry of Internal Affairs.Later on, FactCheck resumed its research on Georgia’s crime statistics. On 8 October 2013, at the pre-election meeting in Poti, Giorgi Margvelashvili declared: “Having unprecedented amnesty as a background, the numbers of crimes are small; this means that crime has decreased statistically as compared to the previous year and crimes are solved more often.” On 31 October 2013, FactCheck addressed the Ministry of Internal Affairs once again to investigate the abovementioned information and asked for statistical data on crime according to months. Additionally, FactCheck
also withdrew information concerning the changes in the methodology for recording registered crimes. The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia again responded to our request with delay, on 3 December. The Ministry’s second letter contained detailed statistical information by months but failed to clearly explain the changes made to the methodology dating from 2010.FactCheck addressed the Ministry for a third time with a request for statistical data on 29 January 2014. This time we asked for the data according to categories and months. However, no response has reached FactCheck so far. Of note is the position of the Bureau of Public Information of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. FactCheck
has tried several times to contact this Bureau via the telephone number displayed on its website. The Bureau does not answer its telephone.Since the elections of October 2012, political forces and society are actively debating the issue of criminal activities and their increase or decrease. Paradoxically, one part of society believes that crime has decreased while another part is of the opposite opinion. These different views triggered FactCheck’s
interest in this topic.Of note is that the statistical data provided by the Ministry of Internal Affairs in response to our first contact raised certain suspicions. According to the letter we received, a total of 19,253 crimes were observed for the period January-August 2013. Despite this figure, summarising the categorised criminal cases showed that there were actually 14,858 individual crimes. The information FactCheck received does not contain a category of crimes labelled “other” (or similar) and so it is unclear to which category the remaining 22.8% of the crimes belong. Consequently, FactCheck
found it important to identify which crime category served to the decrease of the number of registered criminal cases.According to the Ministry, before March 2013, there was a 10% trend of an increase in criminal cases. The Ministry has not published statistical data for the subsequent four months (that is, from March onwards). Based upon the data published in August 2013, the number of criminal cases decreased by 18% if compared to the same period of 2012. Therefore, it was important to identify the monthly dynamics in the decrease of criminal cases. For this reason, FactCheck
found it necessary to obtain the monthly data pertaining to crime statistics although no success was achieved despite numerous attempts.
Of note is the fact that the data published by the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the first quarter of 2013 contains information on the methodology of recording the data. According to the Ministry, two significant changes were made to the methodology:
- Closed criminal cases, despite the basis for their closure, were not reflected in the official statistical data before 2013.
- For the same period, in order to declare a case closed, it was absolutely necessary to file a charge. Nevertheless, some cases, that were actually closed although without filing charges, were not reflected in a consolidated report in order to avoid the unreasonable increase in the number of closed cases.
Based upon the statement of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the adoption of a new methodology made it impossible to compare the crimes of 2013 with those of the previous years as a comparison of data calculated by means of different methodologies always distorts the image of the dynamics and the tendencies of changes in solving crimes. Despite the fact that the Ministry declared it impossible to compare the data of 2013 with the previous years, crime statistics were nonetheless published in comparison with those of previous years. Representatives of the Georgian Dream coalition; namely, Eka Beselia, President Giorgi Margvelashvili and Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili, made various statements about the decreased numbers of crime.
Together with Georgia’s Reforms Associates, crime statistics in Georgia were also researched by the NetGazeti news agency although NetGazeti was also unable to receive any comprehensive response to its request for information. Jumpstart Georgia experienced the same results in the course of its research. Jumpstart Georgia even published a petition in response. In December 2013, the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) also urged the Ministry of Internal Affairs to publish comprehensive data.
It is interesting to look at the details of how crime statistics were published on the Ministry’s website during the term of office of Irakli Gharibashvili as Minister of Internal Affairs. As he declared at the aforementioned press conference, the Ministry used to publish this data upon a daily basis. However, this statement is not true. In April 2013 the Ministry published the data of the first quarter only. Subsequently in August 2013, it published the overall data for a period of seven months. Starting from September 2013, crime statistics were published upon a monthly basis (however, the data was summarised starting from the beginning of the year until the month in which it was published). Of particular note is the fact that this data was not categorised according to crime types. Starting from 2014, the website does not contain any statistics about crime whatsoever as the Ministry of Internal Affairs published statistical data on crime for the last time in December 2013.
Clearly, the Prime Minister is wrong when asserting that information was being published upon a daily basis during his term of office as Minister of Internal Affairs. In addition, it is also not true that the Ministry of Internal Affairs is transparent and that information concerning crime is freely accessible.FactCheck
also researched the Prime Minister’s words about the good will (to publish information) of the Ministry. On 26 August 2013, the Government of Georgia adopted Resolution No. 2019 on the Withdrawal and Proactive Publishing of Public Information in Electronic Form. According to Paragraph 2 of Article 2 of this resolution, an administrative agency is authorised to proactively publish public information concerning its activities and competencies based upon the interest of society. The administrative agency is authorised but not obliged to publish the information. Despite the fact that the law does not directly impose an obligation to the agency to distribute this information, publishing crime statistics has been an established practice for many years. In addition, public interest towards this issue is particularly high. Of note is the statement of the Public Defender, Ucha Nanuashvili, in this respect: “I think this should not be based upon good will. It is an obligation of the state to provide the real indicators about the situation in the county. Society should have this information.” It should also be noted that the Prime Minister somehow modified his own words at the same press conference: “This is our obligation together with our good will.”
According to Article 28 of the General Administrative Code of Georgia, public information is to be open, unless otherwise prescribed by the law, or except for information that constitutes state, commercial or personal secret. Crime statistics do not constitute any state, commercial or personal secret. Thus, it is not an exception regulated by the abovementioned article. Therefore, the Ministry of Internal Affairs must provide complete data to any person making such a request. Consequently, although the Ministry does not have a direct obligation to proactively publish crime statistics, it is definitely required to provide the data to a person who is requesting this public information.
Conclusion FactCheck thrice addressed the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia with requests to provide the country’s crime statistics. The first two written responses sent in reply by the Ministry did not contain any comprehensive data and FactCheck
to date has not received a reply to its third written request. Similarly, NetGazeti, Jumpstart Georgia and the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information also received no detailed statistical information from the Ministry following their requests.
Of particular note is that crime statistics were not published upon a monthly basis during Irakli Gharibashvili’s term of office as Minister of Internal Affairs and this data has not been published at all since January 2014. Therefore, the Prime Minister’s statement about similar information at the Ministry being public and accessible for everyone is not true.
As for the obligation to proactively publish information, based upon Resolution No. 219 of the Government of Georgia state agencies do not, in fact, have any obligation to publish data on their websites. Nevertheless, we should consider the high interest of society in this respect as well as the long established practice previously in existence. The statement regarding good will was later also rejected by the Prime Minister himself. In addition, according to the general Administrative Code of Georgia, the Ministry is obliged to provide public information if requested by an individual.Based upon all the aforementioned, FactCheck concludes that Irakli Gharibashvili’s statement, “The Ministry is absolutely transparent and open. Show interest, ask for statistics…,” is LIE.