In March, 2014 IDFI published analysis of disclosing the statistical data on surveillance on example of various public institutions. In the mentioned article we noted that in response to the request submitted by IDFI in February, concerning various statistical data on surveillance conducted in 2012-2014, the State Prosecutor’s Office has requested 4 month period for providing complete responses (at the initial stage the Prosecutor’s Office only provided number of applications submitted to Tbilisi City Court on removing information from telecommunications channels and fixation, in the period between October 25, 2013 and February 3, 2014. There were 18 such cases in the given period).
On July 12, 2014, (4 months later) IDFI received from the Prosecutor’s Office additional statistical information of surveillance conducted in the remaining period. As we learn from the obtained data, in the period between January 1, 2012 and October 26, 2013 there were 96 cases when the Prosecutor’s Office filed applications to the Tbilisi City Court, requesting to remove and fixate information from telecommunications channel, and two more applications concerning removing information from computer system.
In February, 2014 IDFI also requested information about the number of cases in 2005-2014 when the Prosecutor’s Office filed applications to receive permission for surveillance of judges.
According to the Georgian Law on Operative-Investigative Activities, secret surveillance of the judges can only be conducted based on the order of the chairman of the Supreme Court made upon motivated request from the Prosecutor’s Office.
According to the information received from the Prosecutor’s Office on July 12, 2014, in the period between April 8, 2010 and October 26, 2013 there were no cases when the Prosecutor’s Office addressed to the Supreme Court with the request of permission for surveillance of the judges. Unfortunately, the Prosecutor’s Office did not provide information for other periods.
IDFI has requested the same information from the Supreme Court of Georgia. According to the Supreme Court, it does not compile separate statistics for such operative-investigative activities.
It should be noted that while elaborating new action plan for OGP, IDFI, along with other forum member NGOs has addressed the Supreme Court of Georgia with recommendation to proactively disclose statistical information of secret surveillance, due to high public interest of such information. It is welcomed that the Supreme Court of Georgia, as one of the state institutions participating in OGP, has considered the abovementioned recommendation and took obligation to proactively disclose statistical information on surveillance since September 2014.
It should also be mentioned that according to a new bill on State Secret, initiated in the Parliament of Georgia, statistical data on operative-investigative activities may be classified as state secret. Such clause significantly contradicts with OGP principles and makes transparency and accountability questionable.
IDFI believes that data on surveillance is public information due to its statistical character. Firtstly, statistical data of telephone surveillance does not reveal the content of the operative-investigative activities no secret data will be identified by its disclosure. This is proved by existing practice and the also the obligation taken by the Supreme Court within the framework of OGP initiative.
Therefore, we call on the Parliament of Georgia and the initiators of the new law on State Secret, namely Mr. Irakli Sesiashvili, to revise the article of the bill according to which the statistical data on operative-investigative activities can be classified as state secret, as this will be a step backwards in terms of transparency and access to information and will weaken mechanisms for public control on the surveillance related issues.
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