NUJ public meeting 16 September 2003

Summary of the statement by Myroslava Gongadze on the 3rd anniversary of the murder of Georgiy Gongadze - given at the public meeting in London, UK on September 16, 2003

The international community must act for justice

Photo © Guy Smallman
Myroslava Gongadze (right) speaking at the meeting with Alla Lazareva at left

Three years ago on this day my husband was abducted and murdered. His body was found two months later on the outskirts of Kyiv. The official investigation of his murder has been marred by numerous irregularities, including purposeful concealment and destruction of evidence, violation of the rights of victims, and failure to undertake investigative actions required by the law.

The appointment last summer of a new General Prosecutor, Sviatoslav Piskun, has resulted only in a change of the rhetoric of law-enforcement officials, but not a change in the substance of their prejudiced investigative style. Since the main evidence in the case points to the involvement of the highest state authorities, including the President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma, in organizing the murder, I regard the actions of the General Prosecutor's office as the concerted attempt to help a few state officials avoid responsibility for the crime.

In the last month, there has been new evidence, which sheds additional light not only on the organizers of the crime, but also on its perpetrators. Tragically, it surfaced in the form of posthumous letters from retired militia colonel Ihor Goncharov, who died while in police custody under very suspicious circumstances.

In his letters, addressed to the public and to the General Prosecutor Piskun, Goncharov tells about the existence of a gang, comprised of criminals and militiamen. Aside from business racketeering, the gang was acting on orders of top government officials interested in silencing their most dangerous critics. According to Goncharov, Georgiy Gongadze was one of the targets of this gang, which acted on the orders of Minister of Interior Yurii Kravchenko, and later his successor Yurii Smyrnov. Goncharov also testifies that "top state officials, as well as our President, were involved in these crimes and knew about them."

Although the General Prosecutor's office recognized the authenticity of the letters, it has so far used Goncharov's statements to pursue only the alleged perpetrators of the murder. I am deeply concerned that while finding those who carried out Georgiy's murder, state investigators might pronounce the crime resolved without pursuing those who organized it. My concerns are reinforced by the fact that General Prosecutor has adamantly refused to consider the conversations recorded by Mykola Melnychenko in the President's office as evidence in the case.

However, with the emergence of Goncharov's letters, Melnychenko's recordings, authenticated by FBI expert Bruce Koenig, gained additional importance. I am convinced that these two critical pieces of evidence create a complete picture of the crime - from its instigation to its perpetration. Therefore they should not be separated in the investigation.

The three years of biased and ineffective investigation in the face of immense international pressure lead me to believe that the murder of my husband will remain unresolved at least as long as the current President of Ukraine stays in power. The risk of being persecuted for this and other crimes pushes Kuchma to search for ways to preserve power and control over the law-enforcement bodies by extending his term in office or finding a trusted successor.

At the same time, crimes against journalists and politicians in Ukraine and other post-Soviet countries are still being frequently committed, with no legal repercussions for their perpetrators. Therefore, I deem it vital for the international community not only to monitor and react to such politically motivated crimes, but also to take an active role in their investigation.

International organizations and NGOs should work out a mechanism, which could allow them to investigate high-profile crimes that are being sidelined by relevant state authorities. It might not necessarily require surpassing national jurisdiction and prosecuting those responsible for the crime, but it could do at least partial justice to the victims by exposing the identities of crime's instigators and perpetrators. Such an investigative mechanism would also create a form of international accountability not only for those state officials who committed crimes on a mass scale, but also for all those who instigated crimes even against few individuals.

The international community should recognize that crimes against entire nations could be prevented if crimes against individual human beings do not pass unnoticed. Therefore, an international effort to bring justice in the case of Georgiy Gongadze's murder would become an important precedent for all those who have become, or become in future, victims of arbitrary state-sponsored violence.

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