NUJ Gongadze case update 4

Journalists’ organisations unite to lobby Council of Europe

The International Federation of Journalists, the National Union of Journalists of the UK and Ireland, Reporters Sans Frontieres and the Institute of Mass Information of Ukraine have jointly appealed to the chairman of the committee of ministers of the Council of Europe to push forward an international inquiry into the Gongadze case.

Gyorgy Gongadze, a Ukrainian journalist, was murdered in September 2000. Subsequently evidence came to light linking Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma with a conspiracy to harm Gongadze.

A joint letter from the four organisations calls on Lithuanian foreign affairs minister Antanas Valionis, the current chairman of the committee of ministers, "without further delay and in accordance with the Parliamentary Assembly's recommendation 1538 (2001), formally to ask member countries to send investigators to participate in the inquiry".

The appeal also seeks an assurance from Valionis "that the independent inquiry will be established before the monitoring procedure for Ukraine is reconsidered" - i.e. before Ukraine is given a "clean bill of health" on press freedom and other issues by the Council of Europe.

IFJ general secretary Aidan White, NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear, Reporters Sans Frontieres general secretary Robert Menard and Alla Lazareva of the Institute of Mass Information have also written to the foreign ministers of 43 European countries asking them to volunteer the services of investigators for an inquiry.

The inquiry was called for in September last year by the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly following the failure of Ukrainian law enforcement bodies to investigate the killing. (For details see previous updates, and the recent brochure on the case which is available from the NUJ.)

Last week's approach to Valionis follows a meeting in Paris earlier this month between the four groups and other campaigners to co-ordinate efforts to achieve justice in the Gongadze case.


TEXT OF THE LETTER TO ANTANAS VALIONIS

Mr Antanas Valionis
Chairman of the Committee of Ministers
Council of Europe
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania
J.Tumo-Vaizganto G.2
LT-2600 VILNIUS - Lithuania

12 April 2002

Dear Mr Chairman:

We would like to draw your attention to the situation regarding the independent international enquiry proposed by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe into the case of murdered Ukrainian journalist Georgy Gongadze. You will be familiar with the case of Gongadze, a vocal critic of the Ukrainian president, Leonid Kuchma. Shortly after his death, a former bodyguard of the president made public audio tapes that appeared to show that the highest authorities had conspired to harm Gongadze. Despite the seriousness of these accusations, the general prosecutor's office has obstructed any progress in the matter and all inquiries by Ukrainian law enforcement agencies have come to nothing. The general prosecutor's office and the interior ministry are doing everything they can to hinder any serious investigation.

In September 2001, the Parliamentary Assembly recommended to the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers that it "call on the Ukrainian authorities to initiate if necessary a new investigation into the disappearance and death of Georgy 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."

The Committee of Ministers agreed that such an enquiry was necessary. Ukrainian government, through its justice minister, Susanna Stanik, has told the Council of Europe that it is ready to co-operate in such an inquiry. Now the Committee of Ministers says that before proceeding it wants assurances from member states of the Council that they will provide investigators.

We fear that the inquiry - which is vital for the cause of press freedom throughout Europe and adherence to European democratic norms - could be delayed by these procedural problems. We add our voices to that of Hanne Severinsen, the Council of Europe parliamentary rapporteur on Ukraine, who stated in the assembly that "we need to know how we can break out of the continuing stalemate".

We therefore ask you, without further delay and in accordance with the Parliamentary Assembly's recommendation 1538 (2001), to formally ask member countries to send investigators to participate in the inquiry. We also seek an assurance from you that the independent inquiry will be established before the monitoring procedure for Ukraine is reconsidered.

As organisations speaking for the majority of journalists in many European countries, and recognised as playing a leading role in campaigning for press freedom, we ask you to receive a delegation of our representatives to discuss how the independent inquiry could be set up.

Yours sincerely,


BRITISH TV TO SCREEN GONGADZE FILM - SUN 21 APRIL

The Gongadze case is featured in a TV film, Killing The Story, to be shown on BBC2 on Sunday 21 April between 6.45pm and 7.30pm on BBC2. The film, by Tom Mangold, is the most detailed treatment the case has so far received on UK television and includes interviews with Gongadze's family and colleagues, with president Kuchma and with his former bodyguard, Mykola Melnychenko, who first released the tapes implicating Kuchma in Gongadze's death.

 
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