TBILISI, DFWatch–The Georgian president has vetoed a surveillance bill which would have given the Interior Ministry control over access keys to eavesdropping on the communication of citizens.
President Giorgi Margvelashvili’s veto on Saturday is the second time he has gone against his own political bloc, Georgian Dream.
The national assembly has been discussing the ‘keys issue’ for months. Even though a new more restrictive law on secret surveillance has already come into force, a decision was postponed about who should have physical access to the ‘keys’ and there is a variety of opinions on the issue, which stirs memories of how secretly obtained recordings of people’s intimate lives were used to silent regime critics during Saakashvili.
Margvelashvili first used his veto powers to prevent the governing coalition from postponing the keys issue until February.
On Friday, parliament agreed to leave the so-called keys to the ‘black boxes’ in the hands of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. But many deputies and civil society groups are opposed to this.
Parliament passed the bill with 73 votes at the third reading. Now parliament will need 76 votes to overturn the president’s veto, which it is not clear that it will achieve. It failed to get this many votes after the president’s first veto.
Explaining his decision at a press conference, Margvelashvili said the bill doesn’t provide ‘correct balance’ between security and human rights. As a solution to this, he put forth an alternative bill which says that a court must implement surveillance while Inspector of the Personal Data Protection must supervise the process.
“This is a model where functions are distributed correctly and which provides balance between human rights and state interests. I hope parliament shares my position,” he said.
Parliament will discuss whether to overturn the veto today.