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Destruction of private records

By Tatia Megeneishvili
Monday, September 9
The scandalous video records of people’s private lives that were kept by the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ (MIA), were destroyed at the Module building on September 5. 110 compact discs containing over 144 files were destroyed by special shredding equipment. At the end of the process, commission members signed a decree on the “destruction of files depicting private life archive and wiretapping”.

The members of the special commission working on the issue, including the Minister of Internal Affairs, Irakli Garibashvili; Minister of Justice, Thea Tsulukiani; Chief Prosecutor, Archil Kbilashvili; Court of Appeals of Tbilisi, Judge Merab Gabinashvili; Personal Data Protection Inspector, Tamar Qaldani; Chief Editor of Rezonansi newspaper, Lasha Tughushi; the head of the Electoral and Political Technologies Research Center, Kakhi Kakhishvili; Executive Director of Transparency International – Georgia, Eka Gigauri, as well as journalists attended the process.

Notably, Public Defender, Ucha Nanuashvili was abroad and could not attend. However, as Minister Gharibahsvili said, the ombudsman completely supports the destruction of the video recordings.

According to the minister, the commission consulted with foreign experts including the EU Special Adviser on Legal and Constitutional Reform and Human Rights in Georgia, Thomas Hammarberg, regarding the destruction of the recordings and the commission also shared the experiences of European countries. Gharibashvili underlined that only the videos of people’s private lives were destroyed from the 26, 000 files stored at the ministry, while the rest of the files were placed in storage at the ministry. He also emphasized that the video footage discovered in the Samegrelo region earlier this year are not included in these 26, 000 files.

According to the Justice Minister, legislative changes are being developed that assume that the publication of the private videos will be punished by imprisonment. Tsulukiani said that the penalty for such an offense is still the norm, which is ridiculous and out of place. “During the previous meeting of the commission, we unanimously decided that the article of the Criminal Code about this issue must be amended from penalties to criminal offense. We destroyed what was in our grasp, but, if there are still copies, laws must be toughened, so that no one can dare to use those materials illegally,” stated Tsulukiani, stressing that 1, 2 or 3 years for such action is not enough. However, she said currently this question is under discussion. “We must decide how many years of imprisonment should be given in cases of blackmail or the publication of illegal entry,” the minister added.

Gigauri said that “it is really a big step forward” when the government destroys such materials because it confirms that they are refusing such methods. “Similar decisions are very difficult to make, because this is the great strength in the hands of the government,” she stressed.

The only member of the commission who was against the destruction was Kakhishvili. In his opinion, this fact can hinder the investigation and law enforcement agencies first needed to examine the contents of the material and destroy them only afterwards.