7 August 2002
UK Minister promises to press for inquiry
UK Foreign Office Minister Mike O'Brien has pledged to step up pressure
both on the Ukrainian government and in European institutions for an
independent inquiry into the killing of journalist Georgy Gongadze.
O'Brien gave the commitment to Jeremy Dear, General Secretary of the
National Union of Journalists, when they met to discuss the case on
Thursday 1 August at the Foreign Office in London.
O'Brien told Dear that the UK government had asked Ukraine about the
progress of investigations into the Gongadze case at a meeting between
foreign ministers on 11 July. He said: "We believe there should be an
international commission. We have been told by Ukraine that this is
currently not possible within the framework of Ukrainian law, but we are
continuing to seek a way forward."
O'Brien said that he would raise the case with the newly-appointed
Ukrainian ambassador to London as soon as possible. He also agreed that the
UK would weigh in behind plans for a hearing on the case during the next
sitting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in September
The NUJ, which has been campaigning on the Gongadze case together with
Ukrainian journalists' organisations, the International Federation of
Journalists and Reporters Sans Frontières, will continue to liase with
foreign office officials over its progress.
O'Brien's meeting with Dear came amidst a renewed upsurge of activity over
the Gongadze case in Ukraine.
On 11 July the Prosecutor General, Syatoslav Piskun, ordered a new
investigation of the case, which will include a new examination of the
"Tarashcha corpse", which is assumed to be Gongadze's, with the help of
experts from other European countries. Piskun has also associated himself
with a large reward put up by the Ukrainian NGO, the Anti-corruption Forum,
for information leading to conviction of Gongadze's killers.
But opposition politicians and human rights organisations have expressed
fears that Piskun will merely find a more sophisticated way of covering up
the conspiracy that led to Gongadze's death.
Grigorii Omelchenko, chair of a commission set up last month by Ukrainian
parliamentarians to conduct an independent investigation, wrote to Piskun
saying he feared that two or three people would be found to confess to
complicity in Gongadze's death, and that they would then disappear, die or
commit suicide without those who ordered the killing being punished.
Piskun has said he will co-operate with the parliamentarians' commission.
But he has also said that information the parliamentarians collected abroad
- which could include the crucial "Melnychenko tapes" made by a former
presidential bodyguard, that point to Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma's
complicity in the killing - would be deemed inadmissible.
Piskun's predecessor, Mykhailo Potebenko - who along with the Ukrainian
president and other officials has been sued by Gongadze's mother, Lesia,
for neglect, complicity, and other charges - has now entered the Ukrainian
parliament. As a deputy he is immune from prosecution.
On 2 August, Miroslava Gongadze, the murdered journalist's widow, lodged a
further case against the general prosecutor for breaching her rights in the
course of the investigation.