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Parliament to Discuss Presidential Veto on Sunday
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 29 Nov.'14 / 21:58

Parliament will discuss president’s veto on government-backed surveillance regulation bill on Sunday after presidential objections in a form of an alternative bill was submitted to the Parliament late in the evening on November 29.

President Giorgi Margvelashvili announced about vetoing government-backed bill, which allows the Interior Ministry to retain its direct access to telecom operators’ networks, on Saturday noon.

After discussions, the Parliament will vote on president’s alternative bill on the same day and if it is rejected, which is highly likely, then lawmakers will have to vote separately to decide whether to override presidential veto or not.

At least 76 votes are needed for overturning the veto. If the veto is overridden, the original bill goes back to the president and if the latter again refuses to sign it into law, then the parliament speaker has to do it.

When announcing about the veto earlier on Saturday, the President said the government-backed bill lacked “right balance” between privacy rights and security tipping it in favor of the latter. A proposal, which he spoke about in his televised statement, echoes the one offered by a group of civil society organizations, which have been campaigning for reining in security agencies’ direct, unfettered access to telecom operators’ networks. The President said that a “key” through which law enforcement agencies should gain access to telecom operators’ networks should be in the hands of court, which is also authorized to give a warrant on lawful interception of communication.

“Without court’s electronic authorization it will be impossible to carry out any interception of communication,” Giorgi Kverenchkhiladze, president’s parliamentary secretary, told Rustavi 2 TV when commenting on president’s bill.

Depriving the Interior Ministry of direct access to telecom operators’ networks is strongly opposed by the ministry itself, whose position on the issue is backed by PM Irakli Garibashvili.
 
Before presidential objections were submitted to the Parliament, Deputy Interior Minister, Levan Izoria, said on Saturday that it was “irresponsible” to announce about the veto and at the same time not to immediately submit an alternative proposal to the parliament for consideration as deadline for adopting the regulation looms.

New regulation should be adopted before December 1.

This summer the Parliament passed package of legislative amendments setting tighter rules for the law enforcement agencies to carry out surveillance activities, including through introduction of higher standards of justification required for law enforcement agencies to obtain court warrant on surveillance, as well as through increasing authorities of the personal data protection inspector.

But legislators left key issue, involving security agencies’ unrestricted capabilities of direct access to telecom service providers’ networks, unaddressed. November 1, 2014 was set as a deadline for adopting a law to address this long-standing issue.

But persisting disagreements over what kind of arrangement should be introduced made it impossible to table a bill by the deadline and in late October the Parliament extended the deadline for four months.

This extension of the deadline, however, was vetoed by President Giorgi Margvelashvili, who instead offered tighter deadline till December 1, which the GD parliamentary majority had to accept.

Deputy Interior Minister, Levan Izoria, said in an interview with the Imedi TV on Saturday that if no regulation is adopted by December 1, a “legislative vacuum” will emerge and the law enforcement agencies will be left without any legal basis for carrying out monitoring of communication.

“It is irresponsible before the country’s security,” Izoria said.

President’s administration responded that the Interior Ministry ignored president’s request two months ago to hold consultations with the ministry representatives over the issue of surveillance bill.

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