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Surveillance law appealed

By Tea Mariamidze
Friday, April 7
The Public Defender of Georgia, Ucha Nanuashvili, and a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) held consultations over the surveillance legislation adopted by Parliament on March 22 and decided to appeal the issue to the Constitutional Court of Georgia.

The surveillance law envisages the 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, and photo and video surveillance.

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 direct access to the process due to a potential 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.

The NGOs and Ombudsman agreed to appeal separately, as the Public Defender enjoys independent constitutional authority to apply to the court and demand declaration of a normative act unconstitutional, when it, in his view, is contrary to constitutionally-guaranteed human rights.

Accordingly, at the meeting with non-governmental organizations, it was decided that the Public Defender would independently use this competence, though since the subject of cases would be common, most likely, the Constitutional Court will combine the cases and review them as a single case.

“The decision of the Constitutional Court is not fulfilled as the new structure, which was set up is still under the State Security Service,” Nanuashvili said after the meeting with the NGOs.

As for the NGOs united under the ‘This Affects You’ campaign, the campaign posted a form of electronic complaint on their website and Facebook page several days ago. The form of electronic complaint enabled all citizens to use all available legal mechanisms to appeal against the new law.

The NGOs believe that the SSS should not have direct access to wiretapping and say that instead an independent structure should be created which will not be interested in carrying out illegal covert investigative activities.

The Movement for Liberty-European Georgia parliamentary minority joined the lawsuit of the NGOs, and they jointly appealed against the law to the constitutional Court on Thursday. The Public Defender is going to file a lawsuit within two weeks.

“We were saying from the beginning that the surveillance bill contradicted the verdict of the Constitutional Court. We have held consultations with political parties and NGOs and decided to file a joint lawsuit in order to make the ruling Georgian Dream abolish the anti-constitutional law,” Irakli Abesadze, a member of the European Georgia party, stressed.

The lawsuit of the NGOs was also joined by the Free Democrats and Republican non-parliamentary opposition parties.

The ruling party says the bill ensures the new agency’s maximum independence, and is line with the verdict of the Constitutional Court.