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NGOs special appeal to MIA

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, May 27
NGOs called on the interior ministry to deny the old methods introduced by the United National Movement government concerning eavesdropping. The NGO sector emphasized that the interior ministry still maintains control over the mobile phone users through the “black boxes” attached to the major communication companies.

Transparency International Georgia claims that through the black boxes, the interior ministry can carry out the control on 21,000 mobile phone numbers at the same time.

“We cannot say whether the interior ministry uses these technical capabilities or not,” says Eka Gigauri, Executive Director of TI Georgia, adding that the fact the ministry still has the ability to use this mechanism causes some alarm.

TI Georgia and the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association asked the MIA to remove the black boxes and to destroy the base where the confidential video footage is stored.

“A special commission should be created that will monitor the process of destruction,” NGOs suggest.

The NGOs stressed that eavesdropping should be permitted only in cases of “extreme necessity,” and with regard to heavy crimes only.

“In the case the individual turns out to be innocent, he should be informed that he was confidentially eavesdropped upon,” NGOs stated.

NGOs underscored that the new government has vowed to establish strong mechanisms to prevent illegal surveillance. However, in the seven months after taking over the cabinet, no steps have been made yet towards establishing institutional mechanisms for personal data protection.” Unfortunately, there were cases when secretly recorded materials were used to discredit and blackmail certain people,” NGOs stated.

Pasi Koistinen, representative of the Geocell mobile operator stated that: “If there is the will from the government's side, we can start launching a good practice even from tomorrow.”

Parliament speaker Davit Usupashvili emphasized that the legislative body “intends to carry out significant measures against the problem.” According to him, people should not be afraid that their conversations will be used against them in the future. “The issue should be solved on the legislative level,” Usupashvili said, adding that that parliament has already dedicated a committee to address these issues.

Representatives of the MIA have not focused on the black boxes. However, they admitted that the ministry is ready for open relations and consultations with the civil sector and interested sides over the issue.

Interior minister Irakli Gharibashvili claimed that the base of the confidential video footage would be destroyed. However, he added, there is the threat that former officials might have copies of the footage.