This Affects You campaign welcomes the adoption of regulations regarding the secret surveillance
The This Affects You campaign welcomes the Georgian Parliament’s decision to adopt amendments to the current laws regulating the secret surveillance. We think that the adoption of the regulations will significantly strengthen the constitutional safeguards, and the current legislation will be closer aligned with the European countries’ best practices and standards developed under the case law of the European Court of Human Rights.
According to the new regulations:
- Surveillance and wiretapping will only be used against the persons who committed a crime, the persons who receive or transfer the information about the crime to the offender and persons who committed premeditated grave and especially grave crimes. Also, it will be used against those persons who committed a misdemeanor where the criminal actions are directed against human life and health or it is an economic offence;
- The time limit for wiretapping will be restricted to 6 months (1+2+3);
- The information on the occurrence of wiretapping, the content of the material obtained and destruction of the material must be communicated in writing to the person who has been a subject of wiretapping;
- The Personal Data Inspector will oversee compliance of secret surveillance and wiretapping practices with the law. The Inspector’s authority will also be extended to state security, defense, intelligence and counterintelligence activities which are not state secret;
- The Personal Data Inspector will be appointed by the Parliament after the PM presents two candidates. The PM chooses no more than 5 and no less than 2 candidates from the list created by all three branches of the government, the Ombudsman and representatives of the civil society;
- The Personal Data Inspector will have access to the crime-related, as well as operative-investigative, data, including the information containing state secrets.
For the past few years, the uncontrolled wiretapping by law-enforcement agencies has been a major problem in Georgia. Despite the mentioned progressive reforms, the issue such as the unlimited access of the law-enforcement agencies to the data of communication operators and communications between individuals remain unregulated. The transitional provisions of the bill note that the Parliament will make a decision on this issue by 1 November 2014. By this date, the law-enforcement agencies retain the right to copy information from real-time communication channels (such as information on making a phone call, time of a phone call and other data which are not related to the content of a conversation). It is important to note that the restriction of copying real-time communications was modified at the third reading of the bill and was removed after an insistent demand from the law-enforcement agencies. The This Affects You Too campaign took this with understanding on the condition that it will be regulated by 1 November.
On 1 August 2014, the Legal Affairs Committee of the Parliament initiated an 18 member group which will ensure, by the mentioned deadline, to carry out the following: establish rules for obtaining the information by technology transmitting real-time information through electronic communication companies; creating an effective external oversight mechanism on obtaining this type of information; and adopting relevant laws, as well as regulating the issue of copying information from real-time communication channels. The working group will consist of MPs, representatives of the government, the law-enforcement agencies, the Personal Data Inspector, the Ombudsman, the chairperson of the Investigative Chamber of the Tbilisi Appeals Court, NGOs - “Transparency International - Georgia”, “Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association” and Lasha Tugushi, Zviad Koridze, Lika Sajaia - the sponsors of the law.
The NGOs participating in the campaign This Affects You Too firmly maintain that the issues relating to communications data and real-time transmission of data in communication channels must be transferred to mobile operators for supervision. The initial bill included this, which was based on international best practices and recommendations made by international experts involved in drafting the bill. We hope that the law-enforcement agencies will not oppose the recommendations of international experts and the NGOs, which are members of the This Affects You Too campaign. Furthermore, we hope that the Parliament will support the end to the wrong practice of wiretapping.