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 2018.  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 investigations, and is generally well equipped and well trained. According to the assessment of the U.S. State Department, Georgia is generally capable of detecting, deterring, and responding to terrorism incidents.

According to the document, in 2018, Georgia, a longstanding member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, continued its robust engagement with the United States across a range of counterterrorism related issues.

On the basis of information provided by the State Security Service of Georgia – the lead agency regarding terrorism-related incidents and investigations, the report refers that there was a decline of support for ISIS among Georgian citizens. It is also mentions that the State Security Service estimates that approximately 14 Georgian nationals are in Syria or Iraq supporting terrorist groups.

The U.S. State Department underlines that in addition to implementation of numerous amendments aimed at enhancing its counterterrorism legislation, recognizing the need for a whole-of-government response to the challenges of terrorism, in September 2018, Georgia established its SSSG-chaired Permanent Interagency Commission, an interagency group responsible for drafting and monitoring the implementation of Georgia’s national counterterrorism strategy and action plan.

The document also provides  information that the State Security Service detained, prosecuted, and sentenced several Georgian nationals for support of ISIS member Akhmet Chataev, eliminated in a SSSG-led counterterrorism operation conducted in Tbilisi in November 2017. According to the document, SSSG-led operations in Tbilisi and Pankisi Gorge led to the detention of eight individuals. All eight were found guilty of terrorism charges. 

The report also underlines that the State Security Service also investigated three cases of false notifications of terrorism, one case of public incitement to terrorism and illegal purchase and storage of firearms and ammunition, and two cases of preparation of an act of terrorism.

According to the report, the Counterterrorism Unit of the State Security Service of Georgia continues to receive regular training and equipment. It also mentions that  in 2018, Georgia also carried out exercises to enhance interoperability and cooperation between agencies with counterterrorism-related mandates.

The report mentions that there were no reported terrorist incidents in Georgia in 2018.

According to the section of the report - “Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security”, Georgia continued to enhance its counterterrorism legislation in 2018 through amendments to its criminal code, which granted government officials greater authorities for cases with connections to foreign jurisdictions. The report mentions, that under the new amendments, investigators and prosecutors are entitled to interview witnesses remotely or those registered in a foreign state using technical means, obtain computer data under the control of a foreign jurisdiction, and conduct investigations and examinations in a foreign jurisdiction with its agreement.

According to the document, Georgia took steps in 2018 to improve its border, maritime, and aviation security through legislation and infrastructure improvement. In April, Georgia passed Government Decree N174, which enhances the legal procedures related to the development of Georgia’s API and PNR systems, in line with UNSCR 2396. In addition, in May, Georgia integrated INTERPOL databases into its national border databases.

The U.S. State Department mentions that throughout 2018, Georgia improved infrastructure on four land border sectors bordering Armenia and Turkey. Georgia’s Border Police installed surveillance and monitoring systems at three land border sectors on its border with Armenia. It is mentioned in the document that in October, the United States transferred two Island class patrol boats to Georgia’s Coast Guard, and the Georgian government approved a new statute for the Joint Maritime Operations Center, updating its rules and procedures regarding information exchange. According to the report, in 2018, Georgia’s Civil Aviation Agency conducted 23 quality control activities, including inspections, audits, and covert tests.

In the section of the report – Countering the Financing of Terrorism – it is mentioned that Georgia is a member of MONEYVAL, a FATF-style regional body. Georgia’s FIU, the Financial Monitoring Service (FMS), is a member of the Egmont Group. According to the document, in 2018, the FMS drafted a new AML/CFT law and submitted it to the government for approval. In addition, in 2018 the Interagency Commission on Implementation of UNSCRs also submitted 15 motions requesting to freeze the assets of 130 individuals and 30 entities and seize the frozen assets of one individual and 19 entities. The Commission also implemented several UNSCRs related to asset freezing, travel bans, and arms embargoes on individuals and legal entities suspected of involvement in terrorism.

On the basis of information provided by FMS, it is mentioned in the document that the State Security Service launched investigations into two cases of terrorism financing. The National Bank of Georgia carried out on-site inspections of 25 financial institutions to assess the efficiency of risk management processes relating to money laundering and terrorism financing.

The report also mentions that Georgia also conducted trainings, seminars, and workshops on AML/CFT involving approximately 120 participants from across the Georgian government.

In relation to countering violent extremism, the document underlines that in 2018, the Georgian government continued its CVE efforts in vulnerable populations by focusing on initiatives in education, civic and political participation, media and access to information, gender issues, preserving minority culture and identity, justice and law-enforcement activities, and social and regional integration.

According to the report, in cooperation with the Council of Europe, Georgia implemented the “Reference Framework of Competencies for Democratic Culture” project, which aims in part to prevent radicalization to terrorism in schools. Georgia also held a series of CVE trainings and conferences promoting religious tolerance and antidiscrimination.

According to the report, in 2018, Georgia developed several initiatives aimed at addressing the perceived underlying drivers of terrorist radicalization in vulnerable communities, including the implementation of small grants programs, under which Georgia issued seven grants in the Pankisi Gorge in 2018. Georgia also received targeted training funded by the Department of State and conducted by the Department of Justice on CVE topics including effective law enforcement techniques, prosecutorial strategies, benefits of community outreach programs, digital investigation and analysis, effective electronic and other covert surveillance techniques, threats emanating from alQa’ida, ISIS, ISIS-Yemen, or al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula propaganda, FTFs, battlefield evidence, and returning ISIS fighters.

In relation to international and regional cooperation, the document mentions that Georgia is actively engaged on counterterrorism issues at the international, regional, and bilateral levels. It is also mentioned that Georgia also cooperates closely with NATO, the Council of Europe, the Organization of Black Sea Economic Cooperation, and the Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova (GUAM) Organization for Democracy and Economic Development.

According to the report, in 2018, Georgia signed a Memorandum of Understanding on secure communication lines and a liaison agreement in March with Europol, enabling the use of Europol’s secure channels for communication. Adding to existing agreements with 23 countries and the EU, Georgia also signed agreements on the exchange and mutual protection of classified information with Albania, Moldova, and Italy, and concluded similar agreements with Germany and Belarus.

Country Reports on Terrorism 2018