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NGOs criticize draft on surveillance

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, November 25
The next week parliament will decide who will be given access to surveillance and eavesdropping. Two bills were initiated at a parliamentary session on November 24- one prepared by majority MPs Eka Beselia, Gedevan Popkhadze and Irakli Sesiashvili and the second - by Vakhtang Khmaladze, Head of Legal Issues Committee. Parliament will approve one of them and send it to the president to sign.

The initiative pushed forward by Beselia-Popkhadze-Sesiashvili envisages leaving the power to eavesdrop in the hands of the Ministry of Interior Affairs (MIA). However, the MIA will not be able to carry out the action without approval from the Personal Data Inspector. The second initiative by Khmaladze reads that access to surveillance should be given to the Communication Regulatory Commission.

Majority members state that they will support assigning this privilege to the ministry, while the opposition United National Movement and the Free Democrats state that they will support the Khmaladze initiative.

NGOs, which are against the ministry arrangement, made their remarks on November 24. They stress that granting the key to the MIA is unacceptable, as such a solution will increase the risk of illegal surveillance and eavesdropping as it was under the previous government.

“The draft enables the ministry to carry out surveillance without the involvement of the Personal Data Protection Inspector,” the NGOs say. When it comes to the Personal Data Inspector, the NGOs stress that the inspector undertakes the monitoring of the process in any developed country and has no access to the key.

The NGOs emphasize that through the draft the state takes no obligation to release statistical information on surveillance activities. The NGOs forecast that the president might veto the draft if it is confirmed by parliament.

The authors of the draft and members of parliamentary majority ensure that the Beselia-Popkhadze-Sesiashvili initiative is the best option and poses no threats to state security.

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. NGOs wanted the key to be given to the court and mobile operators. The initiative was criticized by the Prime Minister, who pointed out that the mobile operators are of foreign origin and giving the key to them would pose a risk to state security. Giving the key to the court was negatively assessed by Chair of the Supreme Court Kote Kublashvili, who said that the court is due to issue an order for surveillance and it should not be one of the owners of the key at the same time. The NGOs initiative was not registered in parliament.