NUJ Gongadze case update

4 December 2001

Council of Europe inches forward - give them a push

The call by the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly for an independent commission to investigate the killing of the Ukrainian journalist Gyorgy Gongadze is working its way through the Council's apparatus.

The immediate next step of our campaign should be to make sure that the Council of Europe and the Ukrainian government go ahead and set up such a commission, and that journalists and civil society representatives are assured participation in it.

On Friday 30 November, the inquiry call was discussed by the body responsible to the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers for issues of democracy (the Rapporteur Group for Democratic Stability (GR-EDS).)

The Rapporteur Group heard a report from the Ukrainian delegation about the Ukrainian police investigation into the Gongadze case, and decided to keep the matter - including the possibility of an independent commission - under review.

Supporters of the campaign should press the UK and Irish governments to instruct their diplomats in Strasbourg unequivocally to take the line that an independent inquiry is necessary, given the blatant failure of the Ukrainian police inquiry (the inadequacy of which has been noted and criticised by bodies of both the Council of Europe and Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe).

We should also ask our governments to make clear to the Committee of Ministers that they are willing to offer the help of investigators now. We understand from our colleagues at Reporters Sans Frontieres, who monitor press freedom issues at Strasbourg, that objections have been raised to the proposal for an independent inquiry on the grounds that member states are unlikely to offer the help of investigators.

The next step in the procedure is that the Rapporteur Group will draft a response from the Committee of Ministers (i.e. the Council's executive organ, composed of all foreign ministers from participating countries) to the parliamentary assembly's call for an independent commission. This will be discussed by the assembly when it next meets, in January.

The assembly recommended on 27 September that the Committee of Ministers

call on the Ukrainian authorities to initiate, if necessary, a new investigation into the disappearance and death of Heorhiy Gongadze and to set up an independent commission of enquiry including international investigators for this purpose, and ask the governments of the member states of the Council of Europe to propose assistance by their investigators".

What the OSCE media freedom chief said

Duve Freimut, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe's representative on media freedom, wrote to Walter Schwimmer, secretary-general of the Council of Europe, after the parliamentary assembly voted to call for an independent inquiry, and stated:

I have always supported this position and my office on this occasion would be fully behind such a decision if it were to be adopted by the Council of Ministers. From my side, I will continue urging the OSCE participating states, including Ukraine, to back such an independent investigation and to provide experts, including criminal investigators, if requested.

We should ask the UK and Irish governments to take a similarly decisive position on an inquiry.

What you can do now

  • Write, if you're in the UK, to Peter Hain MP, Minister for Europe at the Foreign Office, along the lines mentioned above.
    King Charles Street, London SW1A 2AH
  • Write, if you're in Ireland, to 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, along the lines mentioned above.
    Ibeagh House, St Stephens Green, Dublin 2
  • Write to Terry Davis MP, the leader of the UK group in the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe, asking him to accept nothing less in the assembly than the setting up of an independent commission of inquiry along the lines mentioned.
    House of Commons, London SW1A 2PW
  • Write to your constituency MP/TD and ask them to press these points.
  • Write to the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, Alvaro Gil-Robles, and ask him what his attitude is to an independent inquiry.
    Directorate General of Human Rights, Council of Europe, F67075, Strasbourg, France. Fax +330 3 9021 5053. Tel +330 3 9021 5063.
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