NGOs urge the Minister of Internal Affairs to destroy video material disclosing the private lives of citizens

It is widely known that a video archive is stored in the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia, which, alongside other records, contains images of certain people’s private life. Although the officials have made statements about the destruction of the video archive, it still remains within the Ministry. In view of the high public interest and the diversity of opinions, we, the signatory NGOs, find it necessary to state a correct legal position on the issue.

We would like to stress at the outset that in this statement we discuss the need to destroy only the video material which discloses private life details. This evidently does not mean that other records should be immediately destroyed as well. On the contrary, video materials depicting torture, inhuman treatment, rape or other similar facts must categorically not be destroyed until the completion of judicial proceedings (at the least). Furthermore, all offenders who have committed crimes similar in kind must be held legally liable according to the gravity of committed offences.

Legal position is different with respect to images disclosing citizens\' private life. Such records must be destroyed immediately due to the following circumstances:

The inviolability of one’s private life is protected under the Constitution of Georgia, international legal acts, and other pieces of legislation. The Law of Georgia on \"Operative-Search Activities\" sets the rules, tasks, and methods for the observation of public safety by special services. Secret filming and eavesdropping is one of the operative-search measures.

Article 3.2 of this Law prohibits operative-search measures which endanger human life, health, honor and dignity. Furthermore, pursuant to Article 6.4 of the same Law:

\"Information obtained as a result of operative-search activities, which does not relate to a person\'s criminal activities but includes incriminating compromising data against him/her, may not be disclosed or used for any purpose against this person. Such information cannot be stored and must be destroyed immediately.\"

Pursuant to Article 157 of the Criminal Code, the \"unlawful collection, storage or disclosure of a private or family secret\" constitutes a crime. This clearly states that even storing such records constitutes an offence.

The confidentiality of a person’s private life is protected not only by the legislation of Georgia, but also by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights as well as the case law of the European Court of Human Rights. A breach of this confidentiality by the state is allowed only in exceptional circumstances when protecting certain legitimate interests (e.g. prevention of a crime, public safety, etc.). Even so, the importance of this interest must outweigh the interest of protecting a private life. In the given circumstance, the material documenting the private lives of citizens available in the Ministry of Interior are collected in violation of the law. The archive includes incriminating compromising material, yet storing it has no legitimate purpose that would outweigh in value and importance the interest of protecting the private lives.

In view of the above, we urge the Ministry of Interior of Georgia to respect human rights and freedoms and to strictly observe the law and requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights. This will be possible only if the Ministry decides to destroy the images of private life without any further delay.

International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED)

Transparency International Georgia

Georgian Young Lawyers\' Association (GYLA)

Article 42 of the Constitution

Georgian Democratic Initiative (GDI)

Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC)

Human Rights Center