TBILISI – The Georgian President Giorgi Margvelasvili has vetoed the surveillance draft bill adopted by Parliament on March 1st.
The President added his remarks to the bill and he sent it back to the parliament.
The legislative package included provisions for the creation of a legal entity of public law (LEPL) the Operative-Technical Agency of Georgia, which will be responsible for covert surveillance. The agency will be under the supervision of the State Security Service (SSS), however, the agency will be accountable to the prime minister and will submit a generalized report of its activities annually to the PM.
The responsibilities of the agency will include: hidden surveillance of phone communication; retrieving information from computer systems; control of post office transfers; secret audio and video surveillance; and photographic surveillance.
The president has two main remarks:
- The bill does not guarantee the independence of the new surveillance agency that is planned to be established.
- There are “unjustified and unpredictable costs” that the bill imposes on communications companies.
The president recommended that the Parliamentary Georgian Dream (GD) majority consider his remarks instead of overriding the veto.
“We know that the GD can override this veto. The time has come when everyone realizes that presidential vetoes are not difficult to override and work to develop a better legislation. The time has come to examine this draft law and the motivated remarks in detail and instead of overriding the veto, develop better legislation for Georgia,” stated the president.
Before vetoing the bill, Margvelashvili held consultations with parliamentary opposition parties that share his position over the legislative package. The majority refused to participate in the consultations, saying the bill has already been adopted by parliament and no amendments are necessary.
The majority will need votes of at least 76 MPs to override the veto. The ruling party has 116 MPs in the 150-seat parliament.
The new bill on covert investigative actions became necessary after the Constitutional Court of Georgia ruled on April 14, 2016 that the existing model of surveillance, with the Interior Ministry and Personal Data Protection Inspector as key players, needed to be changed.
The court stated that the existing legislation, which allowed the police to have direct and unrestricted access to telecom operators’ networks to monitor communications, was unconstitutional and set a deadline of March 31, 2017 to implement the court’s decision and replace the existing surveillance law with new one.