Participants of the ‘This Concerns You – They Are Still Listening’ campaign respond to the statement of the Prime Minister - საერთაშორისო გამჭვირვალობა - საქართველო
GEO

Participants of the ‘This Concerns You – They Are Still Listening’ campaign respond to the statement of the Prime Minister

30 October, 2014

Participants of the ‘This Concerns You – They Are Still Listening’ campaign are responding to today’s statement of the Prime Minister of Georgia, Irakli Gharibashvili, in which he expressed his discontent with the so-called ‘two-key system’ proposed by NGOs. In particular, Irakli Gharibashvili stated: ‘Mobile operators in all three cases are under the ownership of foreign companies and there is no such arrangement in any country where state interests are protected.’

The said statement of the Prime Minister is not true, because in the vast majority of EU member states it is mobile operators that possess the key. It’s hard to believe that the authorities of France and Germany, for example, cause damage to the security of their states by allowing communications companies to possess the key.

Taking the key out of the Ministry of Internal Affairs was also provided for by a recommendation of European experts invited by a task force at the Legal Issues Committee of the Parliament. In their report, experts of the Council of Europe, Joseph Cannataci and Graham Sutton, called upon the Parliament of Georgia ‘to abolish all those laws that allow state bodies and representatives of the authorities to have access to electronic communications without notifying electronic operators and without direct control by them.’ One more expert, Hans-Jörg Albrecht, stated as follows: ‘It’s hard to understand why security and law enforcement agencies should have independent and constant access to data kept with providers of electronic communications service or to the process of electronic communications. Such organized wiretapping and surveillance of electronic communications make it possible to abuse them...’

As the government of Georgia categorically opposed the transfer of the key to mobile operators, as a compromise solution, NGOs expressed their support for the so-called ‘two-key system’. Since the government sees a threat in the transfer of the key to mobile operators, the NGOs developed a proposal to transfer the second key to the court, which rules out risks related to the country’s security. Under the two-key system, it will only be possible to record conversations if the Ministry of Internal Affairs is simultaneously granted access to the content of telephone communications by the mobile operator and the court. It is unfortunate that even this compromise proposal turned out to be unacceptable for the government.

To strengthen his position, the Prime Minister also stated that the courts receive strictly substantiated motions in connection to wiretapping, but they still don’t give permission for wiretapping. In this regard, there arise the following questions: If the courts don’t give permission for wiretapping, what sense does it make to leave the key in the hands of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Does the Prime Minister’s statement mean that, in spite of the courts’ refusal to grant the motions, the Ministry of Internal Affairs still uses the key at its disposal and unlawfully records citizens’ telephone conversations?

We call upon the Prime Minister of Georgia to take into account the opinions of the European experts, which are based on long-standing European practice, and to ensure that the key is taken out of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. In addition, we once again call upon the Parliament of Georgia not to postpone the final decision about the key until April 1, 2015.

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