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President vetoes Law on Eavesdropping

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, November 3
President of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili vetoed the Law on Electronic Communications adopted by parliament a couple of days ago. The bill envisaged the postponement of adopting the law on eavesdropping until April, which was strongly opposed by the civil sector. It was the first time the president used a veto and provided the reasons for the solution.

The president stressed that he was born in the Soviet Union, where everyone knew that the KGB was listening to them. Afterwards, Georgians have to live in post-Soviet Georgia, where Saakashviliís regime continued this practice.

ďThose laws that enjoy wide public and political consensus should be adopted quickly. The laws related to democracy, human rights and their protection should be approved in the shortest terms,Ē the president said.

In accordance with the presidentís remarks, the parliament has one month to prepare and approve a legislative provision regarding the so-called key - the access to personal data during surveillance.

Parliament backed the presidentís remarks. 95 MPs voted in favor of the presidentís bill, only one was against.

Majority MP Shalva Shavgulidze, who initiated the postponement of the process until April, also supported the presidentís initiative.

ďIf we did not agree with him, it would cause a legislative vacuum, which poses a serious threat to law enforcement officersí activity. Accordingly, I was obliged to say that I supported the presidentís remarks,Ē Shavgulidze said.

Prime Minister Gharibahsvili said that that he would have used a different approach with regard to the issue of eavesdropping and would not use the right to veto if he were president. According to Gharibashvili, it was possible to postpone the deadline through consultations with parliament.

The opposition and NGOs were happy with the presidentís solution. Head of Georgian Young Lawyersí Association Kakha Kozhoridze stated that the presidentís independent decision was a step forward for the countryís democratization. He stated that one month will be enough for achieving a consensus on who will hold the key on eavesdropping. Editor in Chief of Rezonansi newspaper Lasha Tughushi gave a high assessment to the presidentís decision and stated that there are two drafts over the issue and if there is the goodwill from different actors, reaching a consensus in a month will not be hard. Analyst Khatuna Lagazidze stated that the process was very significant and revealed that for the first time in Georgian history the three vital branches of the country offered different approaches.

Thus, in a month a solution should be reached on which institution will have the right to eavesdrop. Now access is in the hands of the Ministry of Interior Affairs. The Prime Minister and MIA believe that the key should be retained by the ministry. However, NGOs believe the key should be given to mobile operators and the court.

During the month, the MIA will not be able to eavesdrop. First deputy Interior Minister Levan Izoria states that the presidentís and NGOsí position regarding the delay was wrong, as one month would not be enough for adopting an appropriate law over the eavesdropping.