Civil Society Organizations: The government uses the SSS as a total control mechanism

2 Aug, 2021

The material on the activities of the State Security Service, aired on the channel Mtavari, once again indicates the gravest practice of mass control and human rights violations in the country.

Yesterday, the channel Mtavari aired material on the activities of the State Security Service in 2020, which strengthened public suspicions about the existence of severe practices of illegal interference in the private sector in the country, in particular, the alleged covert surveillance and eavesdropping by the State Security Service.

Representatives of civil society organizations mentioned in the material (Giorgi Oniani, Guram Imnadze, and Giorgi Mshvenieradze) confirm the authenticity of one of the communications discussed in the program, which referred to the summoning of one of the directors of the Social Justice Centre, Tamta Mikeladze, to the Security Service. Giorgi Mgeladze, an investigative journalist of Radio Freedom, also confirms the authenticity of other information aired.

The information released in the media yesterday once again shows that no group, circle of persons, the individual is protected from the control and supervision of SSS in the country. Among these groups are the representatives of non-governmental organizations, media, political groups.

Amid fragmented reforms, fictitious trials, and weak parliamentary accountability, the State Security Service, with its excess powers and powerful leverage, has emerged as a mass control mechanism in the country. It is also worrying that the Parliament continues to strengthen the operational and technical capacity of the SSS, as evidenced by the changes in the Information Security Act.

Despite numerous attempts, large-scale campaigns, the state has so far failed to take responsibility for its failure to pursue the fundamental reform of the Service and its control instruments, the reassessment of the monitoring and oversight mechanisms, and the democratization of this process. By failing this reform, the state has given legitimacy to the function of mass surveillance and control within the agency, at the expense of the violation of fundamental human rights.

Despite the abundance of internal and external threats, occupation, there is a feeling that the main resources of the State Security Service are spent on the control of specific groups of political interest to the state and the Service resources are not mobilized to identify threats to the country’s sovereignty to have a proper response.

Against the backdrop of fragile democracy, severe political crises, the State Security Service has established itself as a watchdog over the interests of highly politicized, influential political figures in the country, seeking to maintain political power through a tool of surveillance, intimidation, and blackmail. Mechanisms for responding to the illegal activities of the Service are weak in the country. Despite the lack of investigations into possible cases of illegal control and surveillance of citizens, there are no tools in the country to effectively monitor the activities of the Service. Judicial control mechanisms are fictitious, and parliamentary oversight tools rarely lead to political or legal responsibilities. This gives the agency even more opportunity to control any area of ​​any human life with impunity, without the utmost accountability.

The signatory organizations call on:

The Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia:

  • To immediately launch an investigation to identify all potential culprits related to the widespread covert surveillance;

The Parliament of Georgia:

  • To take responsibility for overseeing the agency and start discussing fundamental reform of the security sector; The latter is particularly important because, in the present circumstances and the current political context, the public does not have confidence that the state will properly and objectively investigate all possible cases of abuse of office;

The Constitutional Court of Georgia:

  • To review promptly the constitutional complaint filed by the Centre for Social Justice in 2015 regarding the constitutionality of conducting external electronic surveillance and covert photo/video/audio recording without a judge’s permission. Also, the 2017 lawsuit was filed by 326 plaintiffs seeking to bring the existing infrastructure of covert surveillance and system under constitutional scrutiny.

Signatory organizations:

  1. Social Justice Center (formerly EMC)
  2. Transparency International – Georgia
  3. Georgian Democratic Initiative (GDI)
  4. Human Rights Centre
  5. Rights Georgia
  6. Democracy Research Institute (DRI)
  7. Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI)
  8. Georgian Young Lawyers Association
  9. Open Society Foundation
  10. Media Club
  11. Alliance of Broadcasters
  12. Media rights
  13. Georgian Regional Media Association – GRMA
  14. Media Development Foundation
  15. Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics
  16. Georgian Association of Small and Medium Telecommunication Operators
  17. TV network
  18. Liberal Academy – Tbilisi
  19. International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED)
  20. Partnership for Human Rights