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President to discuss surveillance draft law

By Tea Mariamidze
Wednesday, March 15
President of Georgia Giorgi Margvelasvili is going to hold discussions over the final draft of surveillance laws with the political parties.

The President’s parliamentary secretary, Ana Dolidze, stated that Margvelashvili offered discussions to all political parties; however, only the opposition United National Movement (UNM) and Movement for Freedom-European Georgia accepted the offer so far.

“Unfortunately, we have not received an official reply from the majority yet,” Dolidze said.

After long-lasting discussions at Parliament, the final version of the draft was adopted on March 1 with 87 votes for and 2 against. On March 6, the bill was sent to the President for his signature and Margvelashvili has ten days to sign or veto the bill.

The ruling Georgian Dream (GD) party has 116 MPs in the 150-member parliament and they will need at least 76 votes to override the presidential veto.

Majority MP and the Vice-Speaker Zviad Dzidziguri said it would have been more reasonable to hold consultations with the President before the bill had been adopted during the final hearing at the parliament.

He believes that the issue of overriding the presidential veto depends on the recommendations provided by the President.

“The bill was discussed three times and approved via voting and it is not reasonable to hold consultations after its adoption. If the President vetoes the bill, Parliament will decide whether to agree or not. If we will not approve his remarks, we will override the veto, as has happened before,” said Dzidziguri.

Vice-Premier and Energy Minister, Kakha Kaladze expressed the same position. He said that in case of a veto, Parliament would listen to the Presidential remarks and will make a decision afterwards.

“A veto can be overridden and Parliament will make a decision which is important for the country's development and security," said Kaladze.

The final draft of the surveillance law envisages establishment of a covert surveillance agency under the supervision of the State Security Service.

The agency will manage and oversee the surveillance of phone communications, computer systems, post-office transfers, covert audio, photo and video surveillance.

The head of the agency will be appointed by the Prime Minister of Georgia, after which a seven-member commission will select three possible candidates.

The discussions over the draft came after the Constitutional Court of Georgia dismissed the previous model of surveillance, with the Interior Ministry and Data Protection agency having access to wiretapping, and stressed that law enforcers must not have a direct access to the process due to the conflict of interests.

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