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
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
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
- 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.