Georgia: Secret Surveillance Tapes to be Destroyed

Published: 18 June 2013


Georgia’s current Interior Minister Irakli Garibashvili has vowed to destroy an archive of secret phone and video recordings made under President Mikheil Saakashvili stored within the ministry, Radio Free Europe reported.

The government has used the recordings, which include invasion into private lives and other surveillance, to prosecuting opponents for spying for Russia. 

Thomas Hammarberg, Georgia’s EU special advisor for legal reforms, said in Tbilisi a month ago that the principle behind the recordings are criminal, as well as is using them for blackmail, Radio Free Europe reported. This calls into question how the government regulates surveillance, how it is ordered, and how it will be used in the future. Hammarberg also said that it is even criminal for the government to keep the files or to distribute them to others. 

A commission composed of members from the government as well as civil society will supervise the record destruction, but conversation is ongoing about how to do it.

Some observers believe that a portion of the tapes should be kept on file for any future prosecutions involving those who ordered the tapes. Differentiation between which tapes have legal value and which are no more than privacy invasions is important, yet difficult.

The record destruction may be part of a larger effort by the new Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili to oppress members of the Saakashvili regime, although the Interior Minister denies that.