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NGOs protest the overridden bill

01.12.2014

 
Shorena Kakabadze, Kutaisi 

"During the 2012 parliamentary elections, the people requested life in peaceful and democratic environment. However, the government opposes the population’s request with the draft law on secret surveillance, which was adopted by the Parliament. When the government was changed, people did not “dream” about illegal surveillance. They voted for the Georgian Dream for better future. Unfortunately, this bill does not really mean better future,” NGOs responded to the adoption of the bill on “Protection of Personal Data” by the Parliament through second hearing; according to the bill, MIA will hold one of the keys to mobile operators and Inspector for the Protection of Personal Data will hold the second.

Before Beselia-Popkhadze-Sesiashvili’s bill was adopted, the Parliament failed Vakhtang Khmaladze’s alternative draft project. Members of the Republic Party promised to do their best to improve the bill proposed by Beselia-Popkhadze-Sesiashvili; they said they would do everything to eradicate all evident miscarriages in the bill. However, later like the MPs from Free Democrats and United National Movement, MPs from Republic Party also left the discussion process. 

“Nothing was changed in this document. Everything was changed for worse. Interior Ministry can listen to citizens whenever and how they decide it. Parliamentary majority has made clear decision. They continue malicious practice of illegal surveillance established by previous government. This is even worse than it was during Saakashvili’s period,” non-governmental organizations called on law makers to combat the practice of illegal surveillance and President to veto the bill. 

Before that, representatives of civil society organizations organized so called corridor of shame in front of the Parliament. It was their initiative to start consideration of the law on secret in May of 2013. A large part of the legislative proposals prepared by the participants of the Campaign This affects you – they are still listening and then the Parliament accepted their initiative and made it into the law. 

Nino Lomjaria, Chairperson at the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy:  “It is not step forward to democracy. In the contrary, it is a regressive bill, according to which situation is deteriorating in several directions. We believe the authors of the bill have no idea about the system, which will go in force after the bill is adopted. Otherwise they would not have done it.” 

Lasha Tugushi, director of the Georgian Press Association; Editor in Chief of Rezonansi newspaper:  "It is dragon, non-democratic bill; if it goes in force, the Ministry of Interior will have opportunity to listen to the citizens of this country without any obstacles; it is inadmissible; they cannot to get into the souls, hearts and pockets of our citizens.” 

73 voted for and 30 against the bill on the Protection of Personal Data on November 28 through second hearing. Then the President vetoed it, but on November 30 the parliament managed to override the veto with 82 votes vs 13 votes regardless strong opposition of the parliamentary minority and civil society organizations.

The law, according to which one of the keys remains within the hands of the MIA and the second to the Inspector for the Protection of Personal Data, the President disapproved it and proposed better model of the bill to the Parliament, which he described as “oriented on human rights.” According to President Margvelashvili’s version authorized agencies will conduct surveillance procedures but court will hold the key and the Inspector for Personal Data will supervise the process.  Finally, the law makers gave preference to their own vetoed law and overrode the President’s veto. The president signed the vetoed bill.

NGOs protest developments in the Georgian parliament. According to them they will continue fight against illegal surveillance with all legal instruments.  They plan to appeal the law at the Constitutional Court of Georgia. 
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