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Interior Ministry Reform Bill Gets Final Approval in Parliament

Parliament passed on July 8 with its third and final reading package of legislative amendments envisaging decoupling of security and intelligence agencies from the Interior Ministry.

The bill has to be signed by President Giorgi Margvelashvili into law before it is enacted.

Within five days after the bill goes into force, PM Irakli Garibashvili will have to name head of the State Security Service – a new agency, which has to be established from August 1 and which will unite some of those units, which are currently within the Interior Ministry; those unites are: counter-terrorism center; counter-intelligence; anti-corruption agency; operative-technical department, which is eavesdropping agency in charge of surveillance operations, and special operations department.

After receiving endorsement of cabinet members, a candidate will be formally nominated for confirmation in the Parliament. The legislative body will have 2 weeks to consider the nomination.

A candidate will need support of at least 76 MPs to be confirmed as head of the State Security Service for a six-year term.

If a candidate is voted down by the Parliament, the same candidate can be re-nominated, but if rejected by lawmakers again, another candidate should be selected.

If the Parliament fails to confirm a candidate of the agency by August 1 – the date when the State Security Service should be established, the PM will appoint an acting head, who will serve before approval of a candidate by the legislative body.

Proposed bill was not supported by the lawmakers from the opposition United National Movement and Free Democrats parties.

One of the main concerns voiced by several civil society and human rights groups about the package of bills was related to potential duplication of functions between the Interior Ministry and the planned State Security Service. The rights groups argue that the scope of the planned security agency’s authority should only be analytical and intelligence gathering functions, because giving security agencies investigative functions and the right to carry out other law enforcement tasks would pose a risk of abuse of power and duplication of traditional police activities.

Counter-intelligence, counter-terrorism, security and anti-corruption units of the planned new agency will be empowered with investigative functions and will also have the right to carry out detentions. Although the package of bills were amended to minimize possible duplication of traditional police functions, representatives of the civil society organizations say that concerns in this regard still remain.

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