Public Defender’s Statement on Alleged Illegal Wiretapping

On August 1, 2021, Nika Gvaramia, Director of the Main Channel TV company, aired recordings, which according to him, reflected the surveillance of politicians, NGOs, clerics, journalists, diplomats, businessmen and public officials by the State Security Service. According to the recordings, the Service conducts illegal surveillance relating to various persons' sexual orientation, personal relationships and sexual partners, and wiretaps the telephone calls of public figures, NGOs and journalists.

The information contained in the recordings (namely, the implementation of the calls and their content) was confirmed by several persons. Given that the information released contain elements of a number of felonies,[1] the Public Defender considers it necessary to launch an investigation and punish those responsible for illegal surveillance, but notes that, unfortunately, the investigation into similar crimes is ineffective and largely fruitless.

The Public Defender reminds the public that in 2016 the Constitutional Court granted the lawsuits of the Public Defender and various citizens, and declared unconstitutional the legislation regulating covert wiretapping. However, the legislative changes adopted by the Parliament of Georgia on March 22, 2017 still did not meet the standards set out in the ruling, which is why the Public Defender again applied to the Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court completed the hearing in 2018, although it has not yet delivered a ruling.

According to the legislation, the body authorized for conducting covert investigative actions is LEPL Operational Technical Agency, which remains fully dependent institutionally, financially and organizationally on the State Security Service. For its part, the State Security Service has a professional interest in gathering as much information as possible. Unfortunately, external parliamentary control of the Operational Technical Agency is ineffective; the authority of the State Inspector’s Office is also limited. Consequently, there are high risks associated with the process of obtaining both telephone and electronic/Internet data, which allows for arbitrariness and impunity.

The Public Defender calls on the Parliament of Georgia to use the oversight mechanisms to examine the current system of covert surveillance. It is also necessary to strengthen legislative oversight and introduce more tools and mechanisms, in line with the Constitutional Court decision of 14 April 2016.

Given the grave practice of disseminating covert audio and video recordings, including private life recordings, the Public Defender also hopes that the Constitutional Court will rule in the near future to reaffirm the existence of the above-mentioned risks and the need for immediate legal action.

[1] E.g. violation of personal information or personal data (Article 157 of the Criminal Code), violation of secrets of private life (Article 1571 of the Criminal Code), violation of secrets of private communication (Article 158 of the Criminal Code), violation of secrets of personal correspondence, telephone conversation or other means of communication (Article 159 of the Criminal Code), etc.

Woking Hours: Monday–Friday 9:00–18:00
Hot line: 1481 (24/7)