For the second time in the last three days, the State Security Service of Georgia (SSG) has issued extremely problematic statements, that undermine freedom of expression. Besides, statements suggest thatthe SSG aims to reduce the number of participants in opposition rallies by intimidating citizens.
November 6, 2021: Problematic nature of the SSGbriefing
On November 6, the SSG held a briefing and announced that the organizers of the manifestations scheduled today are going to block various state institutions, disrupt their normal functioning, and, moreover, the elimination of one of the opposition leaders is planned. According to SSG, this plan became evident through operative information. The plan is organized by the third president of Georgia who still resides in the prison cell.
SSG should display more responsibility when, indirectly, it notifies the public about the possibility of them being accomplices of the crime by going to an opposition rally. The part of the information, the SSG considers to emanate risks, does not in fact constitutes a violation of the law. Besides, it is not the competence of SSG to respond to the other parts of the distributed information. It is extremely problematic, that the basis of that statement is only the operative information.
November 3, 2021: Problematic nature of the SSG Statement
A statement released on November 3 informs as that “Recently, public statements of various individuals containing signs of crime have been circulated on social networks and the media, and citizens have, deliberately or unknowingly, directly called on like-minded people for revolution and overthrow of the government, including through violent means.”
SSG qualifies such possibly distributed statements to be in violation of Article 317 of the Criminal Code of Georgia. The article penalizes the call for the violent change of the constitutional order or the overthrow of the government. In the same statement, without having any logical connection, reference was made to the investigation launched by the SSG for another case. Unfortunately, the statement did not call for any evidence for us to be able to fully assess the reasonableness of the statement. However,an expression of opinion that does not contain a real or near-real threat of violent change of the constitutional system or overthrow of state power, does not constitute to be the crime envisaged by Article 317.
Expression of opinion, as well as participation in demonstrations, are the rights guaranteed by the Constitution of Georgia. These rights may be restricted, however, when the SSG considers the form/content of an opinion to be a crime against the interests of the State, it must substantiate the validity of the allegations made with convincing arguments. At the same time, SSG should act with high institutional responsibility and, without proper grounds, refrain from disseminating information that could cause fear among the population.
Opposed to that, the facts cited in the SSG statements, as well as its legal assessments, raise many questions. SSG can not substantiate either the reality, or the imminence of the threats. Statements look as if their sole purpose is to intimidate citizens and create grounds for the intensification of repressive measures by various state bodies.
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