US Department of State Names State Security Service of Georgia the Lead in Countering Terrorism

US Department of State published country reports on terrorism 2016. In an annual report activities carried out by Georgia in terms of countering terrorism is assessed among other countries.

The document suggests, that The State Security Service of Georgia (SSSG) has the lead in handling terrorism-related incidents, and is generally well-equipped and well trained. Overall, the government is largely capable of detecting, deterring, and responding to terrorism incidents. The report reads, that while several ministries and offices share policy-oriented counterterrorism roles, SSSG has taken the lead on actionable facets of counterterrorism since splitting off from the Ministry of Internal Affairs in 2015.

The report highlights, that Georgia, a longstanding member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, continued its strong engagement with the United States across a range of counterterrorism-related issues and remained a solid U.S. global security partner. The Us State Department stresses that in August, 2016 Tbilisi City Court convicted ISIS fighter Davit Borchashvili to 12 years in prison for being a member of a terrorist organization and participating in terrorist activities.

According to the report, Georgian authorities continued to work toward greater information sharing with U.S. and regional counterparts on security issues. Georgia also made progress implementing a domestic program to counter violent extremism.

The part of the report - Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security suggests, that Georgia continued to enhance its counterterrorism legislation in 2016 and now has a substantial legal framework for prosecuting terrorism-related offenses. In line with UN Security Council resolution 2178, the government in 2015 changed its Criminal Code and other relevant legislation to criminalize foreign terrorist fighters and the incitement of terrorist acts. These amendments built on changes to the Criminal Code in 2014 that criminalized participation in international terrorism, recruitment for membership in a terrorist organization, and failing to hinder a terrorist incident.

The U.S. government continued to enhance the Georgian government’s ability to detect and interdict weapons of mass destruction. Georgia shares cross-border terrorism-related information with its southern neighbors – Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey – through police attachés and working-level interaction at border crossings.

As for countering terrorism financing, the report highlights, that Georgia is a member of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body.

In terms of countering violent extremism, the document reads, that in 2016, Georgia’s continued efforts to prevent radicalization to violence in vulnerable populations remained in the nascent stage. The government continued to direct countering violent extremism (CVE) efforts towards youth in the Pankisi Gorge. For instance, The Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs has improved school gym facilities and set up after-school programs. This past year the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs also introduced national comprehensive youth programs that are partly aimed at CVE. For example, the Youth Politics Development Program offers participation in various cultural events and assistance in career services. The Ministry of Corrections introduced various programs nationwide seeking to rehabilitate inmates, who are continually evaluated during the course of their incarceration for signs of radicalization to violence, to prepare them for reentry into civil society. Programs offered included anger management, countering stress, continuing education, and career services.

As for international and regional cooperation, according to the document, Georgia is actively engaged on counterterrorism issues at the international, regional, and bilateral levels. Georgia cooperates closely with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and participates in the Defeat-ISIS Coalition and its Foreign Terrorist Fighters Working Group; the Council of Europe Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism and its amending protocol; the Organization of Black Sea Economic Cooperation; and the GUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova) Organization for Democracy and Economic Development. In 2016, Georgia also participated in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Counter-Terrorism conference in Berlin.

The document stresses, that Georgia remains the largest troop contributor per capita, the largest non-NATO contributor, and the fourth-largest troop overall contributor, after only the United States, Germany, and Italy, to the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission (RSM) in Afghanistan, with more than 870 troops deployed.