First Complaints Concerning the Wiretapping Case in 2021 have been Sent to the European Court - საერთაშორისო გამჭვირვალობა - საქართველო

First Complaints Concerning the Wiretapping Case in 2021 have been Sent to the European Court

18 July, 2022

On 28 June 2022, the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association and Transparency International Georgia filed a application with the European Court of Human Rights against allegedly unwarranted eavesdropping on lawyers and civil activists.

As society may well be aware, in August and September 2021, media released information about allegedly illegal wiretapping and covert surveillance conducted by the State Security Service on a large scale. Up to 58,000 files contain reports describing private conversations and detailing personal lives of journalists, representatives of religious organizations, politicians, civil activists, diplomats and others. Authenticity of information provided in the released files were confirmed by many individuals, including the applicants: Davit Jandieri, Natalia Peradze, Giorgi Oniani, Giorgi Mshvenieradze and Guram Imnadze.

The primary aim of the complaint lodged with the European Court is to challenge noncompliance of Georgian legislation on covert surveillance and wiretapping with the conventional standards. It needs to be emphasized that the ineffectiveness of investigation launched into the facts of 1 August and 13 September 2021, which is one of the counts of the complaint, is a glaring example of the aforementioned legislation and practice. In particular, the Prosecutor’s Office of Tbilisi has not granted a victim status to the persons affected, while the Prosecutor’s Office continues to remain inactive despite a joint address of nongovernmental organizations made on 18 May 2022. More than eight months have passed since September 2021, but the state has not shown the slightest interest in investigating the alleged systemic crime committed by the State Security Service, exposing culprits and prosecuting them accordingly. Letters sent by the applicants to various state agencies have either remained unanswered or have not been answered in a form that would convince the victims of any progress in the ongoing investigation.  It must be emphasized that the judiciary facilitates a blanket eavesdropping by the police system, including through its reluctance to grant a status of victim to relevant individuals, which would enable them to engage more effectively in the investigative process.

The problems raised in the complaint have also been specified in the 09 June 2022 resolution of the European Parliament. In that resolution the European Parliament, among other demands, calls on the Georgian authorities to conduct effective investigations into the wiretapping case and to put in place proper legislative mechanisms for the improvement of surveillance and data collection process by state institutions.

The subject of dispute in the complaints is the violations of Article 8 (Right to respect for private and family life) and Article 13 (Right to an effective remedy) of the European Convention on Human Rights. Furthermore, it is requested in the complaints that the case be awarded a status of impact case and the Court instruct the state to present investigative materials in full and in a due form.

A successful outcome of the case will lead to substantial changes to the Georgian legislation and put in place strong protection guarantees against covert wiretapping, which will contribute to strengthening the principles of rule of law and weakening the police regime that has daily violated rights of numerous people precisely by eavesdropping on them for many years now.