(DF Watch)

TBILISI, DFWatch–Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili on Monday vetoed a surveillance bill which civil society groups claim does not go far enough in reining in the powers of the secret police.

Also opposition parties have criticized the bill. They suspect that it will give too much power to the domestic spying agency SSS to eavesdrop on people at will without proper oversight.

On March 11, the umbrella organization This Affects You Too („ეს შენ გეხება“) urged the president to veto the bill and declared its intention to sue the government at the European Court of Human Rights over the issue. This Affects You Too consists of over 30 non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

To overturn a presidential veto, Georgian Dream needs to secure at least three fifths of the votes in parliament, but this has not proven difficult for the ruling party in the past. Margvelashvili said on Monday that he was well aware his veto would be overturned, but emphasized the need to improve the bill.

The Constitutional Court ruled in April, 2016 that existing laws and regulations are unconstitutional because they give the Security Service and the Personal Data Protection Inspector access to the surveillance keys. Parliament has until March 31, 2017 to put in place a new law.

Dirty archive

The government used compromising recordings to put pressure on opponents during the Saakashvili presidency. In January, 2014, its successor the Georgian Dream government destroyed most of the so-called dirty archive, but people fear that the same practice is in fact continuing.

Another problem is preventing the proliferation of previously obtained material. One year ago, sex tapes were posted online that appeared to be older copies. Two people have been arrested in the case.