Overview: Georgia continued its robust engagement across a range of counterterrorism issues in 2020. Owing to COVID-19 constraints, Georgia participated in a limited number of bilateral CT-related exercises and trainings with the United States in 2020 but remained a strong U.S. security partner. The State Security Service of Georgia (SSSG) is the agency responsible for terrorism-related incidents and investigations. Georgia tried and convicted one Georgian citizen on terrorism charges for his involvement in ISIS-related activities abroad. Georgia further refined its AML/CFT laws in 2020 and strengthened its border security infrastructure.
2020 Terrorist Incidents: There were no reported terrorist incidents in Georgia in 2020.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Georgia is generally capable of detecting, deterring, and responding to terrorism incidents. SSSG has the mandate for terrorism-related incidents and investigations and works in close cooperation through its Counterterrorism Center with the Ministries of Internal Affairs, Justice, and Defense and the Prosecution Service of Georgia, among others. SSSG is generally well equipped and well trained; in January, SSSG established its Training Center, which provides training to counter terrorism, violent extremism, and radicalization. The SSSG’s Counterterrorism Unit continues to receive regular training and equipment. The National Strategy of Georgia on the Fight Against Terrorism 2019-21 remains Georgia’s guiding counterterrorism document, and the SSSG-chaired Permanent Interagency Commission is responsible for strategy and action plan oversight. Georgia worked in 2020 to update its chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) Threat Reduction Strategy and Action Plan, which reached the interagency approval stage by the end of 2020. The strategy will be approved by a Georgian government resolution, which the prime minister signed.
In 2020, Georgia worked to enhance its border, maritime, and aviation security through infrastructure projects and legislation. Georgia’s Border Police and Coast Guard, both well organized and highly competent, provide the initial response capability along Georgia’s land and maritime borders, respectively. The Border Police completed infrastructure projects along borders with Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Turkey, all of which will increase year-round patrolling, surveillance, and deterrence capabilities. Georgia also installed a video surveillance and monitoring system on one sector of its land border with Azerbaijan and added additional vehicles and helicopters to its border patrol fleets. Approximately 350 Georgian border and patrol police received basic counterterrorism tactics training from the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Office of Criminal Investigations. Georgia also participated in a multi-agency training on countering WMDs in the maritime domain and various international CBRN trainings and projects. The Department of Defense’s Office of Defense Cooperation is working with the Georgian Coast Guard to bolster its ability to reduce waterborne smuggling of all types of illicit contraband.
Georgia continues to work with relevant state authorities, air carriers, and international partners for further technical implementation of API/PNR systems. In 2020, Georgia adopted Rules on the Exploitation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems to help protect Georgian airspace.
Border closures enacted because of the COVID-19 pandemic helped stem the travel of known or suspected terrorists to, from, and through Georgia. No Georgian citizens were observed traveling to Syria or Iraq in 2020 for terrorist activities. Georgian border patrol agents check individuals, vehicles, and travel documents against national and INTERPOL databases.
In May, Georgian citizen Tsezar Tokhosashvili was extradited to Georgia from Ukraine for his involvement in ISIS-related activities. Georgian courts tried and convicted Tokhosashvili for participating in a terrorist organization and sentenced him to 10 years’ imprisonment.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Georgia is a member of MONEYVAL. Georgia’s FIU, the Financial Monitoring Service of Georgia, is a member of the Egmont Group. Georgia is also a member of the Defeat-ISIS CIFG. In September, MONEYVAL approved an evaluation report on Georgia conducted in 2019, noting Georgia’s progress in recent years and determining that Georgia’s counterterrorism-financing investigations and prosecutions reached a substantial level of effectiveness. In March, Georgia participated in the Warsaw Process Working Group on Counterterrorism and Illicit Financing — led by the United States, Poland, Morocco, and Kenya in Morocco.
In June and July, Georgia further refined its AML/CFT laws, including by designating the National Bank of Georgia as the AML/CFT supervisor, mandating that Georgian financial institutions screen against UNSC sanctions lists, and adopting two bylaws related to reporting, recordkeeping, and customer identification. To implement UNSC sanctions lists, Georgia as of mid-December had submitted nine motions requesting that the assets of seven individuals and five entities be frozen, as well as five motions to unfreeze the assets of four individuals and 27 entities.
Countering Violent Extremism: In 2020, Georgia continued ongoing CVE efforts focused on education, civic participation, access to media and information, gender equality, youth empowerment, socioeconomic and regional integration, justice and law enforcement activities, and promoting cultural diversity and interreligious dialogue.
Georgia continued to work with international and local partners on multi-year CVE projects, including the USAID Pankisi Community Links Activity, which aims to integrate communities with diverse ethnic or religious backgrounds in the Pankisi Gorge region. Program implementation slowed somewhat because of COVID-19, but certain activities were moved to virtual or distanced platforms. In September and December, SSSG and a Georgian NGO organized training on terrorism and violent extremism to promote best practices in CVE.
International and Regional Cooperation: Georgia is actively engaged on CT issues at international, regional, and bilateral levels and expanded its partnerships in 2020. Georgia cooperates closely with NATO, the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the OSCE, the Organization of Black Sea Economic Cooperation, INTERPOL, and the Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova Organization for Democracy and Economic Development. In January, SSSG established an interagency cooperation agreement with France. In May, Georgia and the EU agreed to an implementing arrangement to further support the process for the reciprocal protection of classified information.
Georgia participated in the February Foreign Terrorist Fighters Conference organized by the United Nations, the OSCE, and Switzerland. It also participated in the July UN Virtual Counter-Terrorism Week; and the September online OSCE Counter-Terrorism Conference, among other events. Georgia also attended the Council of Europe’s Steering Committee on Counter-Terrorism’s online fifth plenary session in November and participated in the session’s working group on gathering evidence from conflict zones to use in prosecutions. Georgia continued to participate in multiple NATO and EU-led CT trainings in 2020. SSSG representatives took part in several George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies and Naval Postgraduate School CT seminars and workshops.