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Wiretapping law creates controversies

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, April 4
Georgia’s Public Defender Ucha Nanuashvili, the country’s leading NGOs and the parliamentary European Georgia opposition party all intend to appeal the recently adopted surveillance law to the Constitutional Court, since the Parliamentary majority supported the creation of a special unit under the State Security Service which will be eligible to carry out secret wiretapping.

“An independent body must be established. It will not have the opportunity to conduct investigative activities. In this respect, the newly established body, unfortunately, will not be able to meet these standards,” Nanuashvili said.

Nanuashvili stressed the country has a very “difficult legacy”, when the Interior Ministry and security agencies were involved in illegal surveillance.

“Therefore, the population still has a strong feeling that these bodies will continue to commit alleged offences. People must feel that the system is slowly changing. The proposed model does not change the system. It may only lead to cosmetic changes", said Ombudsman.

The Public Defender believes that in terms of institutional independence, it might be better the system to operate out of the security agencies.

The NGOs and the opposition also speak about the necessity of creation of an independent body that will have an access to wiretapping.

They stress that through maintaining the government’s access to surveillance there is a “high risk” the authorities will be able to “control” the lives of any person in the country if they see such necessity.

Meanwhile, the ruling Georgian Dream party stresses that the newly-established agency would be the guarantor of no illegal surveillance and at the same time, the safety of the population of Georgia.

As several organisations to appeal the law, the lawsuits may be united within the Constitutional Court.

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’s decision and replacing the existing surveillance regulations.

The new law envisages the creation of a legal entity of Public Law (LEPL) under the supervision of the State Security Service which would have the right to carry out surveillance.