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Parliament approves controversial bill on MIA with its second reading

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, July 6
Parliament has approved the bill over the Interior Ministry with its second reading. The bill envisages the separation of the security and intelligence services from the ministry, though the motion was opposed by NGOs.

The third reading of the bill will also take place, but as a rule the reading deals with only technical issues without involvements in the bill content.

The counter-terrorism center; counter-intelligence; anti-corruption agency; operative-technical department, which is eavesdropping agency in charge of surveillance operations, and special operations department will be separated from the Interior Ministry and move to the planned State Security Service.

The State Security Service will have about 4,000 employees, and require approximately 36.7 million GEL of funding in a period between August and year’s end. This amount of funding will be allocated from the Interior Ministry’s 2015 budget which stands at 638, 7 million GEL.

The candidate at the position of the head of the service will be selected by the Prime Minister (PM) of Georgia and will require 76 votes out of 150 for appointment.

In case of a failure to gain the support of Parliament, the same candidate can be re-nominated, but if rejected by lawmakers again, another candidate should be selected. The head of the State Security Service can serve only one six-year term in office.

Deputy heads of the State Security Service will be appointed by the PM.

In case the Parliament fails to confirm a candidate of the agency by August 1, the PM will appoint an acting head before approval of a candidate.

The Parliament will have power to sack the head of the service, who has to deliver report to lawmakers once a year.

Prior to the second reading Parliament Chair Davit Usupashvili addressed all interested individuals and organizations to get involved in the discussions except backstage criticism.

Initially, before being initiated, NGOs demanded the reform of the ministry. However, since the government put it forth they stated that the amendments were superficial, offering no vital changes in the ministry.

“First of all, we would like to highlight that we do encourage the initiative to separate the Security Services from the Police. However, we believe that the separation should have real value and create not only institutional, but also functional basis for the separation. The proposed draft law, on the other hand, does not create such a guarantee. It merely means a formal separation and poses a number of additional threats to human rights and the rule of law principle. We urge Parliament Members not to approve the current wording of the draft law and support holding further discussions of the issue,” NGOs said.

NGOs stressed that within counterintelligence activities, the Security Services are entitled to obtain certain information and carry out actions such as secret audio and video recording and secret photo and video filming without judicial oversight, while the Criminal Proceedings Code mandates judicial oversight on similar activities. The Security Services also have access to technical surveillance devices. “In these circumstances, retention of the investigative functions with the Security Services poses significant threats,” NGOs added.