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Majority supports power of electronic surveillance staying with MIA

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, November 24
The parliamentary majority will support the initiative presented by majority MPs-Eka Beselia, Irakli Sesiashvili and Gedevan Popkhadze with regard to illegal surveillance and eavesdropping. The initiative envisages allowing the Ministry of Interior Affairs (MIA) and the Personal Data Protection Inspector to handle decisions related to eavesdropping. Parliamentary majority member Davit Saganelidze and Eka Beselia claim that this policy is optimal and does not put state security at risk. The two oppose the initiative pushed forward by NGOs that endorses control being shifted to the court and mobile operators. Saganelidze stresses that the mobile operators are of foreign origin and leaving this power in their hands might pose risks to state security.

NGOs stress that the powers must not be left in the hands of the MIA. Head of the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) Nino Lomjaria states that the initiative suggested by the majority members does not include many important aspects. She states that NGOs are studying the initiative and will deliver their final assessment shortly.

Members of the United National Movement and the Free Democrats party chaired by former Defense Minister Irakli Alasania state that they are against the MIA controlling eavesdropping decisions.

Prior to the recent developments, the Prime Minister expressed his view of the issue. He criticized the NGOs for their position and accused them of lobbying on behalf of the United National Movement.

“They (NGOs) wish to destroy the Interior Ministry. They are fighting against state institutions. We know very well who wants to see such a failure. Both the government and the opposition should be focused on creating a strong state and not a weak one,” the PM stated

Responding to the statements, the NGOs accused the Prime Minister of making offensive statements and damaging the image of the organizations. “The Prime Minister should be focused on reaching consensus and not triggering confrontation,” head of the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association Kakha Kozhoridze said.

Illegal surveillance and eavesdropping was widely used under the previous government. Hours of illegal footage obtained during the UNM administration was destroyed by the Georgian Dream coalition. However, the key for carrying out the activity is still in the hands of the MIA.

Aside from the initiative proposed by Eka Beselia, Gedevan Popkhadze and Irakli Sesiashvili, MP Vakhtang Khmaladze also proposed that the key should be controlled by the Communication Regulatory Commission. However, the initiative failed to receive the majority support. Majority members stressed that the Communication Regulatory Commission has other obligations.