Open letter to the Government of Georgia on unchecked telephone tapping made by the Ministry of Internal Affairs via mobile operators - საერთაშორისო გამჭვირვალობა - საქართველო

Open letter to the Government of Georgia on unchecked telephone tapping made by the Ministry of Internal Affairs via mobile operators

31 May, 2013

TO: Prime Minister of Georgia, Bidzina Ivanishvili

Minister of Internal Affairs, Irakli Gharibashvili
Minister of Justice, Tea Tsulukiani
Chair of the Parliament, Davit Usupashvili
Chair of the Supreme Court, Konstantine Kublashvili


Government wiretapping has been a concern in Georgia for the past several years, as highlighted in our recent report on the State of the Internet and the U.S. State Department’s Human Rights Report. Systematic unchecked surveillance undermines media freedom and poses a threat to the civil liberties that a free and democratic state builds on. Recent developments illustrate once again that wiretapping by the state must be subjected to serious control.

It is known to us that, several years ago, the Ministry of Interior installed ‘black boxes’ in the server infrastructure of all major telecommunication companies. This allowed the law enforcement bodies and security services to monitor all communications passing through the infrastructure, including text messages, internet traffic and phone calls. Moreover, this infrastructure has not been removed from the servers of mobile operators, since the new government came to power; also, the Ministry of Internal Affairs maintains these black boxes. According to telecom insiders, the authorities have the technical capacity to monitor 21,000 mobile phone numbers at any point in time.

We call on the authorities to immediately remove their black boxes from the infrastructure of telecommunication companies, and ensure that the relations with mobile operators are within a legal and ethical framework. A huge danger is created with the absence of judicial supervision, coupled with the low level of accountability by law-enforcement agencies and intelligence services, in which powers are abused with a direct access to the communication data. The activities and communications of journalists, civil society activists, politicians and business representatives are being monitored.

Obviously, Transparency International Georgia acknowledges the possibility of wiretapping by the operative and investigation services, but all of it must occur within legal framework. For this very reason, it is also necessary to consult with the operator companies, the Regulatory Commission and the court about the process of obtaining the data. Furthermore, the development of relevant legislative initiatives is equally important. Consultations are required for developing the procedure of secret video recording and wiretapping, which will fully comply with legislation and be protected from systematic and arbitrary collection of the data.

We believe it is a great desire and right for each Georgian citizen to no longer have their mobile phones tapped uncontrollably-this was promised publicly by the new Government of Georgia. For this very reason, the government must formulate a solution to this problem in the near future, which will serve as hard evidence that it has stuck to this pre-election promise thoroughly and indeed has a political will to reinforce rule of law principles within the country.


Transparency International Georgia