20 May 2014
Last week, the Parliament of Georgia intensively discussed the legislative package aimed at adopting progressive amendments to the regulations on covert surveillance and eavesdropping. The legislative initiative was discussed and supported on the level of principles by the Economic Policy Committee, Committees on Defense and Security and Committee on Legal Affairs. The bill was discussed at the plenary session. However, due to the lack of a quorum, the parliament failed to adopt it. It should be noted that the parliament failed to adopt the draft law even though it no longer contained those articles that prohibit direct access of investigative agencies to the servers of mobile operators, which was the main purpose of the criticism received from law enforcement agencies.
We, the member organizations of the campaign “It Affects You Too – Surveillance Continues”, would like to explain our attitude towards this process. First of all, it should be noted that the legislative initiative, which was discussed at the plenary session and the Committee on Legal Affairs, included a number of progressive provisions, including the following: 1) the bill allows for certain types of crime, in the case of which surveillance and eavesdropping are allowed; 2) there are a reduced number of persons on which surveillance and eavesdropping is allowed; 3) the functions of the personal data protection inspector and other mechanisms for system monitoring are increased. 4) the members of the campaign support the adoption of these progressive provisions; and 5) a significant number of the deputies have been actively involved in the process, which had a positive effect on the final version of the bill.
Pointedly, the Ministry of Internal Affairs does not agree with the restrictions regarding direct access of law enforcement agencies to the telecommunications’ data proposed by the initiators. As a result, a transitional provision was added to the draft law on “electronic communications” during the committee hearings, according to which law enforcement agencies will have direct access to the database of telecommunications and to telephone conversations until a new commission finds a solution and makes a decision. Thus, despite sharing some progressive provisions, the question of the law enforcement agencies’ direct access to the database of mobile network operators has been left open by the Parliament.
Unfortunately, despite the experience of previous years, when law enforcement agencies had direct access to the database of mobile network operators and the personal data of subscribers, due to which the Ministry of Internal Affairs had the ability of unlimited and arbitrary interference in private life and the possibility of creating archives consisting of the personal and family lives of people, having arbitrary and uncontrolled power at the stage of case investigation, obtaining an unfair advantage during the administration of justice and the possibility of neglecting the equality of parties, the Parliament of Georgia did not have enough political courage to end this vicious practice and to provide legislative support.
The member organizations of the campaign express their concern over the fact that on May 16, the Parliament could not adopt even those agreed upon amendments that would be a step forward in protecting personal information and privacy and improving the justice system. We believe that neither the Parliament nor the Executive Authorities have used enough resources to change the situation in this regard.
In addition, we hope that in the near future, the Parliament will express its relevant political will to adopt the bill against covert surveillance and eavesdropping at first reading during a special session and will not delay its adoption at second and third reading after the elections.