On 9 July 2015, the Parliamentary Minority MP from the Free Democrats, Irakli Chikovani, talked about the separation of the Security Service from the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia in terms of the Ministry’s reform. According to the MP, the initiated bill lets the Security Service retain the function of criminal prosecution whilst the Georgian Dream coalition’s pre-election programme stated that the Security Service, separated from the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia, should not have this function.

FactCheck

took interest in the accuracy of Irakli Chikovani’s statement and verified it.

On 7 May 2015, during the approval of the new Cabinet at the Parliament of Georgia, the then Minister of Internal Affairs of Georgia, Vakhtang Gomelauri, stated that it was planned to split his Ministry into two parts which would mean the separation of the Security Service from the Ministry and their formation as two separate structures.

On 15 June 2015, the government adopted the bill on the reform of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia. According to the bill, all of the policing structures will remain in the Ministry whilst security services will be transferred to the State Security Service. The Counter Terrorist Centre, Counter Intelligence Department, Anti-Corruption Agency, Informational-Analytical and Special Operations Departments as well as the Operative-Technical Department will make up a single structure.

The Head of the State Security Service will be introduced to the Government by the Prime Minister of Georgia (on 20 July 2015, the Prime Minister introduced Vakhtang Gomelauri as a candidate for the position of Head). In the case of the government’s approval, the Parliament of Georgia will discuss Gomelauri’s candidature and approve it for six years. After passing three hearings and being adopted by the Parliament of Georgia, the President of Georgia signed the bill on 15 July 2015.

According to the new regulation, one of the authorities of the Security Service is to identify, prevent and investigate crimes as determined by Georgian legislature and the international treaties signed by Georgia.

The Georgian Dream coalition’s pre-election programme indicates that the main function of the police is to protect the rights and liberties of a person, maintain public order and security, avoid or prevent crimes or other violations of the law, identify and investigate crimes, control traffic safety and fulfil other tasks and duties as assigned by the law whilst the Security Service was to become separate from the structure of the Ministry of Internal Affairs altogether. As we can see, according to the pre-election programme promise, the right to take investigative actions was to remain completely with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Security Service would be denied such an authority.

The assessment of Georgian NGO's about the Law on State Security is important to look at in this regard. According to them, the involvement of the non-governmental and academic sectors in the discussion of the bill was for the most part nominal. According to NGO’s assessment of the concept of the reform and the bill itself, the separation of the Security Service from the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia is without real meaning or impact.

According to the assessment of the non-governmental sector, the risk of the politicisation of the Security Service remains high as the concept of the reform as presented does not provide for fundamental changes in the actions of the Security Service in an institutional sense. Hence, there still remains the issue of whether or not there are institutional guarantees that the Security Service will not be used for political motives serving the interests of the government to maintain its power and stability. It is highly unlikely that the separation of the Security Service from the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia will actually affect its influence in the fields of governance and social control. Despite the fact that along with the Government of Georgia the Security Service is accountable to the Parliament of Georgia as well, the bill does not provide for real control on the part of the Parliament but a formal responsibility only.

The State Security Service is equipped with typical policing authorities. These include investigation, search and arrest of persons, conducting operational-investigative actions and so on. It is also important to note that according to the recommendation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, in order to avoid the risk of abusing given authorities and the duplication of functions, security services should not have typical policing authorities such as investigation and arrest.

Conclusion

According to the Georgian Dream coalition’s pre-election programme, two structures were to be separated in terms of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia’s reform. However, the Ministry would retain its policing functions, including criminal prosecution.

On 8 July 2015, the Parliament of Georgia adopted the Law on Security Service by 78 votes. It ignored the recommendations of the non-governmental sector and despite the pre-election promises, equipped the Security Service with the right of investigation.

FactCheck concludes that Irakli Chikovani’s statement is TRUE.

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