The messenger logo

Majority offers new entity for surveillance

By Tea Mariamidze
Monday, January 23
The Georgian Dream majority and its head of Parliament’s Legal Committee offered a new entity under the State Security Service to carry out surveillance after the Constitutional Court of Georgia stated last year that the existing model of surveillance with the Interior Ministry and Personal Data Protection Inspector as key players had to be changed.

The Parliamentary working group chaired by the head of the Legal Committee, Eka Beselia, with MPs, judiciary authorities and NGOs, did not agree on a particular model that would meet the Court order that the key for surveillance should not be directly in the hands of the police, as was approved by Parliament in 2014.

The Legal Committee presented on January 20 a concept which envisaged the establishment of a legal entity of Public Law (LEPL) under the supervision of the State Security Agency (SSA), which would have the right to carry out surveillance.

Beselia believes this would be a combined model, which was in line with the decision of the Constitutional Court.

“The Constitutional Court did not say that the key should not be in hands of the state. The Court is asking for higher guarantees of security,” she said, and added that the State Security Service must have access to surveillance while taking the state’ssafety and interests into account.

The civil sector believes that neither the Interior Ministry nor the State Service should have direct access to surveillance, as they may use their powers for illegal surveillance, as happened under the United National Movement authorities.

“The Constitutional Court's decision says that the key to tapping should not be in hands of the legal authority, an investigative body or any other state agency. We are asking to create an independent structure, which will not have any professional interests,” GYLA lawyer Giorgi Gotsiridze stressed.

Justice Minister Thea Tsulukiani said the power to monitor Georgian citizens should not be in hands of the private sector.

“This is a state function. The state is responsible to ensure security. Therefore, I think that the so-called key should be in hands of a state institution,” the minister said.

The surveillance issue became a hot topic prior to the October Parliamentary Elections in 2012, when several videos leaked on internet showing torture and inhuman treatment in prison, as well as private conversations of politicians and famous people.

After the Georgian Dream Government defeated the nine-year rule of the United National Movement in 2012, thousands of video and audio fileswere seized, taped illegally under the United National Movement leadership to blackmail people.

Most of the footage was publicly destroyed, but many files were kept in order to help future investigations.

However, under the current Georgian Dream authorities, some personal videos also appeared on the Internet.

Parliament passed amendments in 2014 that gave surveillance powers to the Interior Ministry and the Personal Data Protection Inspector, with the opposition and NGOs opposing the move, due to the threat of illegal surveillance.

The President also vetoed the amendments, but the veto was overridden by Parliament.

The Constitutional Court ruled on April 14 2016 that the legislation allowing the police to have direct, unrestricted access to telecom operators’ networks to monitor communications was unconstitutional.

The court set March 31 2017 as the deadline for implementing the court decision and replacing the existing surveillance regulations by new ones.