Georgia’s surveillance laws scrutinised by European experts

Draft law has to protect civilians from illegal surveillance., 26 Sep 2014 - 14:27, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgian lawmakers have been advised to tighten the country’s surveillance laws and formalise the mandate as to who can conduct lawful surveillance.

Two international legal experts from the European Council took part in a Georgian Parliament meeting to give their recommendation about Georgia’s draft law on government surveillance practices.

Joseph Cannataci and Graham Sutton recommended the country create a transparent system where surveillance could be accessed by the Government and private organisations.

The legal experts recommended the special group commissioned with overseeing the creation of the draft law, to recommend a model that would protect civilians from illegal surveillance.

"Only after a court verdict will it be possible for the Interior Ministry to launch surveillance and simultaneously, a private organisation or special monitoring agency must double check the accuracy of the surveillance,” Cannataci said.

He believed there was no instrument in the world that fully protected citizens from illegal surveillance but believed a model to reduce this "would be appreciated”.

Meanwhile other international legal experts criticized the model offered by Georgia’s Interior Ministry which outlined to tighten the supervisory role of the personal data inspector.

Cannataci believed the Government-offered model was "a step forward” but incomplete.

Meanwhile Thomas Hammarberg, who was appointed by the European Commission as the EU's Special Adviser for Legal and Constitutional Reform and Human Rights in Georgia in February, recommended it was important for activities in this sphere to be regulated by law and put under democratic and judicial control.

"It is known that systems have been developed in other countries to enable security authorities or ministries of interior to exercise ‘data mining’ of basically all electronic communications. I have been informed that Georgia also has a system through which the [Ministry of Internal Affairs] has automatic access to all phone calls, emails, SMS via the private telecom providers in the country,” Hammarberg stated in his recommendation. 

"Georgia has a system through which the Ministry of Internal Affairs has automatic access to all phone calls, emails and SMS via the private telecom providers in the country. It is important that activities in this area be regulated by law and put under democratic and judicial control,” the recommendation stated.