Decision on direct access to mobile operators data must not be postponed

We, non-governmental organizations united under “This Affects You – They Are Still Listening” campaign, find the decision to postpone the effect of new regulations on secret surveillance to be totally unacceptable. “Failure of the working group to make a final decision on the secret surveillance system” was referred to as a basis for postponement.   However, no sitting of the working group was convened to make the decision to extend work until April 2015 .

It is outrageous that the parliamentary Legal Affairs Committee has submitted the initiative in a secret manner, and that the majority of the working group members have learned about it coincidentally. Further, members of the working group made an official request to the Committee Chairman to convene a meeting before the expiry of a statutory deadline for the commission’s work on November 1. Such a meeting was not convened. As a minimum, such action of the Legal Affairs Committee is an attempt to undermine the working group process and ignore the role and opinion of group members.

After we learned about the initiation of the draft law, eight members of the working group, including the Public Defender’s representative and two members of the Parliament of Georgia – Nino Goguadze and Tamar Kordzaia, approached the Chairman of the Legal Affairs Committee, Vakhtang Khmaladze with an application and asked to convene the working group immediately for discussing this initiative. Unfortunately, the working group still has not been convened.

We would like to stress that the Commission's work was productive and the majority of the group members had a clearly formulated position on the so-called 'wiretapping key'. Absolute majority of the group were in favor of withdrawing the key from the Ministry of Interior. Following the visit of the Council of Europe experts, the majority of the group members have agreed to a two-key compromise system model offered by the experts. Law-enforcement agencies did not seem to have arguments opposing this model, either. The lack of strong/logical arguments may have been the reason for not organizing further meetings of the working group. We assume the law-enforcement agencies were assured that the majority of the group members would have supported the issue during the vote.

Unfortunately, we have once again witnessed law-enforcement agencies ignoring the general public, and the public will. We clearly stated that the adoption of part of the draft law by the Parliament was progressive, however, all regulations would lose meaning should the law-enforcement agencies retain the ability wiretap citizens without control or oversight. Maintaining the wiretapping key in the hand of the Ministry of Interior ensures continued existence of an unregulated system without appropriate oversight.

NGOs of the "This Affects You - They Are Still Listening" campaign believe that the working group for drafting legislative amendments on secret surveillance must convene as soon as possible and be asked to submit to the Parliament a conclusion on its work. Members of the campaign urge the Parliament of Georgia not to uphold the initiative on postponing the deadline and to immediately request convening of the working group. Further, we call on the MPs and other political officials to publicly express their position on this subject matter.