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President vetoes bill

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, March 22
President of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili has vetoed the majority-offered surveillance bill, stressing that the draft law does not adhere to the demand of the country’s Constitutional Court, and will also place a serious financial burden on communication companies.

Margvelashvili’s veto came after the Constitutional Court of Georgia blocked the Parliament-adopted surveillance law with Georgia's law enforcement agencies and the Personal Data Protection Inspector having access to surveillance, and gave Parliament time until March 31 to elaborate changes that would deprive law enforcers of direct access to the wiretapping.

The law adopted under the current ruling Georgian Dream leadership was rejected by the court and was also vetoed by the President, but Parliament managed to override the veto.

Now the President says his veto will also be overridden, as the Georgian Dream party possesses a constitutional majority in the legislative body, but says ignoring his motivated remarks should not be a 'goal' for the majority.

Margvelashvili stressed it must be the aim of all political players in Georgia to act based on the state's interests and adopt laws that would serve the country's interests.

The President highlighted that the creation of an agency under the State Security Service, as it is written in the current bill, opposes the demands of the Constructional Court and damages the business interests, as the bill obliges communication companies to purchase equipment necessary for eavesdropping.

Majority representative Eka Beselia criticized the President in response, and stressed that Margvelashvili didn’t give Parliament enough time for discussing his remarks, as he fully used his 10-day term to reveal his position.

She says that the veto would be overdriven, as otherwise 'national security could be at risk'.

The opposition and a number of NGOs believe the President made the right decision and stressed the ruling team was acting against the court’s verdict.

They claim they will appeal the new law, when adopted, to the Constitutional Court again.

The Parliament of Georgia approved the draft law on surveillance with its third reading early in March.

The draft law put forward by the ruling team was immediately opposed by the opposition, as it envisaged the creation of a legal entity of Public Law (LEPL) under Georgia’s State Security Service that will be eligible to carry out secret surveillance.

The opposition proposed the creation of a separate, independent agency with the key for surveillance under the supervision of Parliament.

However, the suggestion was turned down when voted on in Parliament.

The current draft law reads that the LEPL, entitled as Georgia’s Operative-Technical agency, would be created under the country’s State Security Service, and the head of the agency would be selected by a special commission composed of seven people: the head of Georgia’s State Security Service, deputy head of Georgia’s Supreme Court, the head of Parliament’s Legal Committee, the head of Parliament’s Defence and Security Committee, the head of Parliament’s Human Rights Committee, the Public Defender and a Government representative.

The agency head would appoint his/her deputies, and the agency preamble would be confirmed by the Prime Minister.

The draft law introduces the position and a new role of the Supervisor Judge from the Supreme Court who will allow the carrying out of surveillance and will also monitor the enforcement process.

The direct control on the law enforcement activities, i.e on surveillance, would be carried out by the Personal Data Protection inspection via a special electronic system. The inspection will specify how legal the surveillance process is and if not it will be able to suspend the enforcement.

Parliament, through its control mechanism, will also control the activities of the new agency, and the agency will also be held accountable to the Prime Minister with annual statistical data and a report.

The agency will be eligible to copy the telephone communication data of a target individual for no longer than 12 months, and of internet communication for no longer than six months. The period can be extended for three months.