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NGOs launch a campaign against new surveillance law

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, December 4
The "It Affects You" campaign participants, consisting of NGOs and civil society representatives, and which are against illegal surveillance, have begun fighting against the bill adopted by parliament with regard to wiretapping a couple of days ago. The bill envisages granting the MIA and Personal Data Protection Inspector exclusive access to surveillance.

Head of Transparency International Georgia (TI) Eka Gigauri states that there are many gaps in the government-backed law that leaves a lot of space for illegal surveillance. She says NGOs are going to file a suit against the bill in court.

According to the chairperson of the Civil Development Agency (CiDA) Zviad Devdariani, NGOs have a two-part plan.

“To protest against the law and to change the adopted law,” he said, adding that NGOs will work on a new model of surveillance with all actors.

NGOs claim that people should not be dependent on the MIA’s goodwill in terms of surveillance.

“Statements assuming that the current MIA, unlike the previous one, is good and will not illegally infringe on its citizens’ privacy is not a guarantee,” head of Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) Kakha Kozhoridze said.

Parliament Speaker Republican David Usupashvili believes reformation of the MIA is "inevitable”.

Usupashvili spoke about the need to carry out major changes within the MIA in a talk-show on Georgia’s Kavkasia TV channel on December 3.

The parliament speaker said he was sure the parliamentary majority would support any changes that would help the MIA turn into a European-style ministry.

"There are no militarized Interior Ministries in Europe,” Usupashvili said.

Usupashvili said the system where the MIA was associated with the police was created by former Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili, who is currently in prison for fraud and the abuse of authority.

"To change this kind of approach towards the MIA, we need to make systemic changes,” the parliament speaker said.

There were two drafts on surveillance presented in parliament. The draft the NGOs supported was by Republican MP Vakhtang Khmaladze, which envisaged granting access to the Communication Regulatory Commission. Parliament rejected this draft and approved the Beselia-Popkhadze-Sesiashvili draft that was later vetoed by the president. However, parliament overrode the veto. Most majority MPs and the Prime Minister claimed the adopted draft was the best option. However, the parliamentary minority and Republicans from the coalition were against the current draft.