On 22 November, the Government of Georgia presented to the parliament the amendments to the law "On the Structure, Authority and Rules of Operation of the Government of Georgia” and 110 associated laws.Amendments are also made to the law "On State Security Service” since the government decided to merge the State Security Service and Foreign Intelligence Service. However, along with the amendments related to the structural reorganization, the proposed draft law also includes provisions which would reinstate and institutionally strengthen the institute of so-called ODRs (planted security officers, the acronym from the Russian «ОДР» - «офицер действующего резерва», literally, Active Reserve Officer) in its classic, Soviet form.
According to the draft law:
- The State Security Service will have the right to place a secret agent to any government body (all ministries, Legal Persons of Public Law (LEPLs) or Non-Commercial (Non-Entrepreneurial) Legal Persons (N(N)LPs), private enterprises, establishments or organizations;
- The agent will not be allowed to divulge his affiliation;
- The agent will have the right to assume any post in the institution in which he was "planted”;
- The agent will be obliged to supply information to the State Security Service;
- The agent will be reimbursed by both the State Security Service and the enterprise in which he was secretly "planted”;
- The period of secret service for the planted agent will be counted as general service record.
According to the Georgian legislation, the State Security Service is authorized to plant its secret agent into a criminal group as well as into any enterprise and institution if there is a suspicion of a crime being committed (the law "On Operative and Investigative Activities”).
In addition, in 2015, the term "security officer” was abolished by legislation but the State Security Service can nevertheless appoint a permanent representative to an establishment of high risk to state security, but based on mutual agreement with the establishment in question. The list of such establishments is determined by the government. It is therefore unclear what purpose is served by placing a permanent secret agent at an executive government body, enterprise or establishment.
According to the current legislation, only an employee of the Intelligence Service is allowed to assume a post at a government body as well as various enterprises, establishments and organizations without divulging his or her affiliation in order to perform his or her duties. Applying this to the entire State Security Service arouses a legitimate suspicion that the suggested amendments are an attempt to reintroduce and strengthen the so-called ODR practice that prevailed in the Soviet Union.
The reform of the Security Service should be one of the main priorities for the country. However, the reform should be aimed at creating a strong and accountable Security Service. By giving excessive, unchecked power and levers of total control to one agency, we will not be able to provide for the existence of a service that will effectively ensure the country’s security. It is very likely that this will lead to abuse of power and undermine the country’s institutional administration.
The concentration of excessive power in the hands of the State Security Service along with its functions of analysis, law enforcement, use of force, prevention and investigation combined with weak mechanisms of external control will turn the State Security Service into a mechanism of total control, which contradicts the principles of a democratic state.
We call on the Parliament of Georgia to refrain from supporting the suggested amendments in their current form and from applying the Intelligence Service control mechanisms to the entire Security Service.
Transparency International Georgia
Atlantic Council of Georgia
International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED)
Media Development Foundation
Society and Banks
Georgia’s Reforms Associates (GRASS)
In-Depth Reporting and Advocacy Center