The U.S. State Department Report Named State Security Service of Georgia as the Lead Authority in the Field of Fight against Terrorism

The U.S. State Department published Country Reports on Terrorism 2017.  Alongside various countries of the world, the annual Report assesses Georgia’s activities conducted in the direction of fight against terrorism.

According to the document, the State Security Service of Georgia has the lead in handling terrorism-related incidents and is generally well equipped and well trained. Overall, the Georgian government is generally capable of detecting, deterring, and responding to terrorist incidents, according to the U.S. State Department assessment.

The document underlines, 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, participated in numerous bilateral exercises and remained a solid U.S. security partner. The Report stresses the signature of the Agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Georgia Concerning Security Measures for the Protection of Classified Information in May of the last year, establishing a legal foundation for bilateral intelligence sharing between the two countries, that will strengthen counterterrorism cooperation and enhance the Georgian military’s interoperability with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member states.

The section of the Report “Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security” provides that, Georgia continued to enhance its counterterrorism legislation in 2017. Georgia introduced legislation with a view to reform and increase management oversight of covert investigative operations and the use of electronic surveillance. According to the Report, the government also implemented a new law on international protection. The law was designed to allow the government to refuse refugee, asylum, or other international protection to persons reasonably considered involved in acts of terrorism and/or have connections to terrorist organizations.

In its Report the U.S. State Department reflected Georgia’s activities in the direction of enhancement of border and aviation security and noted, that Georgia improved infrastructure in five land border sectors (four along the Azerbaijani border and one along the Turkish), and added four along the Turkish border. Georgia also established the Risk and Threat Assessment Unit, which operates in line with the European Common Integrated Risk Analysis Model, and signed the Tactical Memorandum with the NATO Maritime Command, promoting cooperation and information sharing between NATO and Georgia’s Joint Maritime Operations Center. According to the document, the mentioned Memorandum makes Georgia a non-operational partner of the NATO-led Operation Sea Guardian, one of NATO’s activities to counter terrorism. The document also provides, that, the government passed additional safety measures in the aviation sector as the State Program on Safeguarding Civil Aviation Security Against Acts of Unlawful Interference legislation was adopted, in conformity with the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, and standards and recommended practices established by International Civil Aviation Organization. Herewith, it is noted, that the government approved and implemented the Joint Action Plan on the Management of Crisis – Extreme Situations in the Field of Civil Aviation.

The Report also provides the information on SSSG led special operation, on November 21-22 on Beri Gabriel Salosi street in Tbilisi and stresses that the SSSG’s counterterrorism unit led an operation in a residential building in Tbilisi, intending to detain four suspected terrorists who opened fire on the Special Forces. One member of the terrorist group was detained, two were killed, and a fourth suspect detonated an explosive, killing himself. According to the Report, later, one of the dead was identified as international terrorist Akhmet Chataev. One Georgian officer was killed and four others were wounded. The Report also provides that the SSSG Counterterrorism Department launched December 26 special operation that was carried out in Pankisi Gorge following judicial authorization, as a result of which four individuals were detained based on their alleged connection to Chataev. One man was critically wounded in the special operation and later died. The Report also provides, that as of late December 2017, investigations into both operations were ongoing. The document reads, that in July, Georgia launched an investigation and subsequent criminal proceedings against a Georgian citizen who was allegedly fighting with ISIS.

As regarding countering the financing of terrorism, 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, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. It is stressed, that Georgia’s anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism legal framework remains largely in compliance with international standards, in particular with updated FATF recommendations.

In relation to Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), document provides, that in 2017, the Georgian government continued its CVE efforts in vulnerable populations by focusing on initiatives in equality and integration, education, civic and political participation, media and access to information, gender equality, and preserving minority culture and identity.

The Report stresses, that the Georgian government launched a three-month internship pilot program for ethnic minority students that included over 65 students interning in 20 state agencies and local self-government bodies. Another project initiated in 2017 was the “Young European Ambassadors” program, aimed at providing various minority target groups with information on Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations in their native languages. The document also provides the information on cultural events organized by the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection in both the Pankisi Gorge and Akhaltsikhe, promoting cultural diversity through various fora.

As regards international and regional cooperation, according the document, Georgia is actively engaged on counterterrorism issues at the international, regional, and bilateral levels. Georgia also cooperates closely with NATO; participates in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, including its Foreign Terrorist Fighters working group; the Council of Europe Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism, and the Organization of Black Sea Economic Cooperation. In December, Georgia co-sponsored UN Security Council resolution 2396 on returning and relocating foreign terrorist ‎fighters.

In terms of enhancement of international legal framework, the Report highlights, that in 2017, Georgia signed the Operational and Strategic Cooperation Agreement with Europol, as well as an agreement with Germany on the Exchange and Mutual Protection of Classified Information. The document also provides that Georgia signed bilateral treaties focused on further law enforcement cooperation with Greece and Sweden. Georgia has similar cooperation agreements in place with 28 countries. Furthermore, the Report mentions active participation of SSSG and other relevant law-enforcement agencies in counterterrorism-related events organized with the support of international partners.

Country Reports on Terrorism 2017