30 January 2002
Opposition to an inquiry
Opponents of the campaign for an independent international
inquiry into the death of Ukrainian journalist Gyorgy Gongadze are claiming
there is no legal basis for an inquiry. The NUJ and campaigning organisations
rebut this claim, as has the president of the ministerial committee of the
Council of Europe, Antanas Valionis.
Please contact your MPs and the Foreign Office, to make sure that the UK,
Ireland and other states support the setting-up of an independent inquiry.
Above all, please put pressure on governments to offer assistance and
support for such an inquiry, to break the "stalemate" of which the leader
of the Danish parliamentarian Hanne Severinsen warned last week.
Below please find:
- excerpts from the official report of the debate in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, in which Ms Severinsen warned of the "stalemate"
- edited translations of two articles that
appeared on the Ukrainskaya Pravda web site, detailing the case; and
- information about a forthcoming NUJ publication on the case.
EXCERPT FROM THE OFFICIAL REPORT OF THE DEBATE IN THE PARLIAMENTARY
ASSEMBLY OF THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE 22 January 2002
Question No. 3
Mrs Severinsen [Denmark, Liberal Party]: "Noting the failure of the
Committee of Ministers to comply with the recommendations of the
Parliamentary Assembly regarding Ukraine;
"To ask the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers,
"Why the Committee of Ministers has failed specifically to comply with the
request in Recommendation 1538, Article 3, to initiate a new investigation
into the disappearance and death of Mr Gongadze, and to set up an
independent commission of inquiry, including international investigators
for this purpose."
Mr Valionis [president of the ministerial committee of the Council of
Europe, minister of foreign affairs of Liuthuania]: "The Committee of
Ministers answered the Assembly's concerns in paragraph 4 of the reply that
it gave last week to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1538.
"The Committee of Ministers specifically states that 'it continues to
follow closely the investigation into the disappearance and death of Mr
Georgiy Gongadze. Further progress in this investigation is essential. The
Committee of Ministers reiterates to Ukrainian authorities the importance
of conducting a full and transparent investigation of the case and reminds
member states' governments of their call for international assistance in
this regard.' It is true that the Committee of Ministers did not set up an
independent commission of inquiry. But the fact is that "Ukrainian law does
not provide for the establishment of an independent international
commission of inquiry to investigate this case", as stated in the reply.
"However, the Committee of Ministers welcomed 'the Ukrainian authorities'
readiness to consider steps they might take to facilitate practical
implementation of the proposal contained in paragraph 3 (ii) of Assembly
"I have raised the issue of the case of Mr Gongadze with the authorities of
Ukraine during my visit to Kyiv. I have received assurances that they are
ready to co-operate with the international community within the legal
framework of Ukrainian law. For your information, after my visit the
Chairman of the Deputies received the message of the Chairman of the
Commission of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine for investigating the murder of
journalist Gongadze, asking for international assistance for investigation.
It was distributed in the Committee of Ministers.
"The Committee of Ministers will certainly continue to follow this question
The President: "Thank you, Mr Valionis. Would you like to ask a
supplementary question, Mrs Severinsen?"
Mrs Severinsen (Denmark): "Yes, I would like to hear how we can break out
of a continuing stalemate. One and a half years have passed. The Ukrainian
Government says that it is waiting for an initiative from the Committee of
Ministers. The Committee of Ministers says that it is waiting for responses
from other countries. I am sure that the various countries are waiting for
a common signal. The Commission of the Verkhovna Rada is waiting for
international assistance. We must adhere to our decision that an
international commission should be set up."
The President: "Thank you. Would you like to reply, Mr Valionis?"
Mr Valionis: "Ukraine authorities asked member states to co-operate on this
matter and we still wait for the next steps to be taken."
THE QUESTION OF SETTING UP AN INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION TO
INVESTIGATE THE GONGADZE CASE WILL NOT BE TAKEN OFF THE AGENDA - REPORTERS SANS
FRONTIÈRES Ukrainskaya Pravda, 25.01.2002, 22:41
On January 25, 2002, in an interview with the news agency Interfax Ukraine,
the Ukrainian deputy General Prosecutor, Aleksei Baganets, stated that the
Council of Europe's investigators had agreed with their Ukrainian
counterparts that there was no legal basis for the creation of an
international investigative commission to investigate the case of Gongadze,
and that the Council of Europe had therefore decided not to form one.
Such a statement is mistaken. Reporters Sans Frontières considers that
this announcement was nothing other than a strategy that the Ukrainian
authorities are resorting to more and more often in order to drag out the
process of uncovering Georgy Gongadze's killer.
Antanas Valionis, the Chairman of the Council of Europe's committee of
ministers, and Lithuania's Minister of Foreign Affairs, accepted that, at
the present time, there is no legal framework for foreign investigators to
work in Ukraine, but he did not say that the Council of Europe had decided
not to set up an international investigative commission. Three Ukrainian
deputies have prepared legislation that addresses in particular the issue
of the status and powers of international investigators working on the
territory of Ukraine.
Moreover, Hanne Severinsen, a contributor to the monitoring committee PACE
regarding Ukrainian issues, wrote a letter on January 24 to the Council of
Europe's cabinet of ministers demanding that the process of establishing an
international commission to investigate the Gongadze affair be accelerated.
Reporters Sans Frontières would like to take this opportunity to remind
readers that on September 27, 2001, the Council of Europe produced a
recommendation regarding setting up an international commission to
investigate the Gongadze affair, and, with the aim of actually achieving
that end, approached the Council of Europe's cabinet of ministers.
Aleksei Baganets also announced that, in accordance with the General
Prosecutor's Office's petition to Germany, German and Ukrainian specialists
would conduct an examination of the "Tarashcha corpse" in Ukraine,
neglecting to mention both when this was to happen and which agencies would
Reporters Sans Frontières considers it absolutely necessary that there
should be a new examination of the body, but that this examination should
in no way preclude a genuinely independent investigation of the causes and
the circumstances of the journalist's death.
KUCHMA WILL FACE TRIAL, EVEN IF IT TAKES YEARS
Ukrainskaya Pravda 25.01.2002, 12:12
Kuchma will, for the moment, not be called to account. On Friday, the
Pechersky district court in Kiev rejected Lese Gongadze's petition
regarding the Ukrainian General Prosecutor's refusal to prosecute the
President of Ukraine, Kuchma, the head of his administration, Vladimir
Litvin, and the Minister of Internal Affairs, Yuri Kravchenko, for the
death of her son.
Georgy's mother informed UP that she would not let the matter rest at that.
Kuchma will face a European court, and this would probably be even better.
In the meantime, the Prosecutor's Office has been issuing statements
concerning new aspects of the Gongadze case. Having hinted at the
possibility of sensational information having come to light, the Ukrainian
Deputy General Prosecutor, Aleksei Baganets, none the less failed to
mention any new facts that had been uncovered, citing legislation
forbidding the disclosure of information.
"We continue to pursue all the lines of inquiry that we were examining
before, but new facts are emerging which we must check with regard to this
or that particular line of inquiry. These are not new angles that we are
pursuing, rather new nuances of existing ones."
As was stated, the head of the so-called "Tarashcha corpse" (the headless
body was found in woodland close to the village of Tarashcha near Kiev) has
been sought for some time by investigators "with the use of modern
technology and even aircraft." [...]
It is known that the General Prosecutor's Office has been following three
lines of inquiry concerning Georgy's murder, these being that the
motivation for the killing was a) domestic, b) professional, or c) a random
act of violence. You may remember that in May of last year, the Minister
of Internal Affairs, Yuri Smirnov, announced that the murder had indeed
been solved, and that it was "random in nature, and was the result of
hooliganism." Also, two of those responsible have died, "but as far as
organisers are concerned, there are none, because it was a spontaneous,
Law enforcement officers had found the bodies of Gongadze's killers.
"Those who committed the murder have been found, and are now being held at
appropriate locations." Smirnov stated that a well-known criminal known as
"Cyclops" (one of those who had been killed) was directly linked with the
case, though he was later to become something of a laughing stock when he
pointed out that this had been "his own personal view".
On Friday it became known that Ukraine's General Prosecutor, Mikhail
Potebenko had ordered a third examination of the "Tarashcha corpse" with
the participation of a German specialist. This was also mentioned by
Baganets. Moreover, he added caustically, "The General Prosecutor had no
reason to doubt the findings of the earlier examinations."
"In making such a decision, Mikhail Alekseevich Potebenko took into account
the several requests that had been made by the victim's family that such an
examination be made, as well as the fact that the issue had been raised at
the Council of Europe and in the mass media."
The decision was made under pressure from public opinion and, it should be
noted, the President, who had given the unexpected order to approach
Germany with a request for assistance in conducting an additional
examination last year. It was a long time coming. Or maybe this was all a
deliberate display of disobedience on the part of the General Prosecutor's
Office to demonstrate that they would not kow-tow to the President,
regardless of what might be said, and that they were on top of things.
Judging from Baganets' statement, the carrying out of the examination has
been entrusted to the Chief Office of Forensic Medical Examination, i. e. a
Ukrainian agency, but with a foreign (German) expert being brought in to
participate. "We put together a letter which pointed out that given the
situation and its demands, they have the right to bring in a specialist
expert from Germany."
A search is currently being conducted via diplomatic channels in the German
Federal Republic for an appropriately experienced specialist capable of
carrying out such an examination. This German specialist will examine the
body alongside Ukrainian specialists in Ukraine and will take samples back
to Germany for testing. "They will be repeating the work which our experts
conducted originally with their Russian and subsequently with their
The specialists will need to answer the question of whether the so-called
"Tarashcha corpse" is indeed the body of Georgy Gongadze. This will be the
fourth examination. At the beginning of last year, the "Russian
examination" found that it was 99.6 per cent likely that the body was that
of Gongadze, while a month later, Russian scientists conducted an
independent study which found that it was 99.9 per cent likely. [...]
It is worth mentioning that the Ukrainian Public Prosecutor's Office
continues to insist that there is no legal basis for setting up an
international commission to investigate this particular case. Meanwhile,
unbiased specialists maintain that Ukrainian legislation in no way forbids
the establishment of such commissions, which means that there is nothing to
stand in the way of putting together an international group. Nothing, that
is, apart from the will to do it. [...]
The General Prosecutor's Office continues with its games, and points at the
so-called progress being made by their investigations, but is unable to say
anything concrete, because it is forbidden to disclose such information.
It yields to the pressure of public opinion and agrees to an additional
examination of the body, but only several months after the decision had
already been made by the President. All this means that whatever happens,
the General Prosecutor's Office is counting on getting the results of the
examination after the general election.
The General Prosecutor's Office is shamelessly pulling the wool over the
eyes of the international community, who, conditioned as they are to
respecting the laws of others, can simply do nothing but trust in the
declarations of the authorities in question.
Nothing has changed.
NUJ to publish brochure on the case
The NUJ is putting together a brochure on the Gongadze case, aimed mainly
at parliamentarians and fellow journalists' unions around Europe. It will
explain the stage reached in the efforts to establish an enquiry and ask
people to mount pressure on the Council of Europe. If you would like to
receive copies let Ian Howarth at the NUJ head office
People to contact
- Your constituency MP or TD
- In Scotland or Wales, also your MSP or MWA
- Peter Hain MP, Minister for Europe at the Foreign Office
King Charles Street, London SW1A 2AH
- Brian Cowen TD, Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Liz O'Donnell TD, Minster
responsible for Overseas Development & Human Rights at the Department of
Foreign Affairs in Ireland
Ibeagh House, St Stephens Green, Dublin 2
- Terry Davis MP, the leader of the UK group in the parliamentary
assembly of the Council of Europe
House of Commons, London SW1A 2PW
- the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, Alvaro Gil-Robles
Directorate General of Human Rights,
Council of Europe,
F67075, Strasbourg, France.
Fax +330 3 9021 5053