Ukraine: No justice for Georgiy Gongadze twelve years on
17 Sep 2012
Impunity for killings and attacks on journalists prevail in Ukraine. 16 September marked the twelfth anniversary of the killing of investigative journalist Georgiy Gongadze, yet the masterminds behind his killing have still not been brought to justice. Unresolved cases also include Ihor Aleksandrov a journalist killed in 2001 Vasyl Klymentyev a journalist disappeared in 2010, and VolodymyrHoncharenko an ecologist killed in 2012.
“ARTICLE 19 marked the twelfth anniversary of Georgiy Gongadze’s murder with deep sadness. Not only because the life of this young journalist was brutally taken away, but also because over ten years of convoluted criminal investigations and court proceedings have seen no significant result,” said Dr Agnes Callamard, ARTICLE 19’s Executive Director. “The impunity in his case has cast a long shadow over freedom of expression in Ukraine, demonstrating the dangers faced by those who dare to speak out critically, and the lack of protection afforded to them by the state.
“We call on the authorities to finally ensure a full and proper investigation into Gongadze’s case as well as those of fellow journalists Vasyl Klymentyev and Ihor Aleksandrov. A prompt and effective investigation must also be carried out into the recent murder of ecologist Volodymyr Honcharenko. It is important that these crimes are recognised as crimes against freedom of expression,” she continued.
The Ukrainian authorities have still not fulfilled their promise to bring the masterminds behind Gongadze’s case to account. On 26 June 2012, Ukraine's Higher Special Court upheld a lower court decision to retract the criminal charges against former President Leonid Kuchma, and by doing so closed public access to information linked to the criminal charges. . In an interview with ARTICLE 19 the lawyer of Myroslava Gongandze, Valentyna Telychenko, confirmed that they complain against this decision at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Telychenko explained: ‘We are concerned that once again the focus is only on the perpetrators and that the masterminds are left out of the picture. High level government officials and politicians should not be shielded from being investigated’.
Previously in October 2011, the Constitutional Court of Ukraine ruled that evidence collected by Mykola Melnychenko, the former Major of the State Department of Guard and former bodyguard to President Kuchma, was done so illegally and could not serve as grounds for criminal charges.
Attacks on Journalists are Crimes against Freedom of Expression
Ukraine has a positive obligation under international human rights law to protect those exercising their right to freedom of expression, including journalists, human rights defenders and activists and investigate and punish those responsible for violence and other attacks against them. ARTICLE 19 is concerned that in Ukraine investigations into violence and attacks against journalists and activists are too often treated as random criminal acts rather than ones aimed at preventing them from talking about specific issues as part of their work.
ARTICLE 19 calls upon the Ukrainian authorities without delay to implement the recommendations as incorporated in the latest Joint Declaration of the four special mandates for protecting freedom of expression – the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Informationand the OAS Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression1, such as:
- State officials should condemn attacks committed in reprisal for the exercise of freedom of expression
- The authorities should make all reasonable efforts to expedite investigations, including by acting as soon as an official complaint or reliable evidence of an attack against freedom of expression becomes available
- Sufficient resources should be allocated to ensure that investigations into crimes against freedom of expression are thorough, rigorous and effective and that all aspects of such crimes are explored properly
- Investigations should lead to the identification and prosecution of all of those responsible for crimes against freedom of expression, including direct perpetrators and instigators, as well as those who conspire to commit, aid and abet, or cover up such crimes
- Investigations should be conducted in a transparent manner, subject to the need to avoid prejudice to the investigation.
- For more information, please contact Susan Coughtrie firstname.lastname@example.org +44 20 7324 2500
- Earlier this year, a report entitled "Make freedom of expression a reality, Mr President" - A Report on Press Freedom in Ukraine, was published by several media and human rights groups including ARTICLE 19, after an international joint mission to Ukraine in April 2012. The report outlines concerns ‘regarding media freedom in the country and calls on President Yanukovich to ensure the right to freedom of expression.
Murder of Georgiy Gongadze: Co-founder of the news website Ukrainska Pravda, Gongadze had been frequently harassed and intimidated by authorities, including the Ukrainian Secret Service, because of his criticism directed at the government. He disappeared on 16 September 2000 with his decapitated body found one and a half months later on 3 November 2000, doused in dioxin and petrol. The criminal investigation into his case has been marred by frequent delays and obstruction by government officials and the death of key witnesses in the case. Three of the alleged assassins were convicted in 2005 but none of the masterminds of the crime have been brought to justice.
Murder of Ihor Aleksandrov: Director of Tor, an independent television company based in Slavyansk Government corruption, Aleksandrov also presented the television programme ‘Bez Retushi’ (‘Without Censorship’), in which he regularly criticised government corruption at the national and regional levels. On 3 July 2001 unknown assailants attacked Aleksandrov as he entered Tor’s office, where he was later found covered in blood with his head cracked open. He was taken to a hospital immediately but died on 7 July 2001 without having regained consciousness. Yuri Verdiuk, a homeless man was original imprisoned for Aleksandrov’s murder; however, he was later released due to a lack of evidence. Four police officers later admitted to falsifying documents to make Verediuk seem responsible and they were imprisoned on sentences ranging between 7 and 13 years. On 7 July 2006, five members of a local criminal group, the ‘17th district,’ were convicted of Aleksandrov’s murder by the Luhansk Court of Appeals and given various sentences between two and half to 15 years imprisonment. They included Aleksandr Rybak (a former member of the Ukrainian Secret Service) who was found guilty of being one of the instigators, but the conduct of the initial investigation indicates that high-ranking law-enforcement officials were also involved who have not been held to account.
Disappearance of Vasyl Klymentyev: Editor-in-chief of the Kharkiv-based Novyi Styl newspaper, Klymentyev was known for his work on corruption. In one of his last articles he criticized the local prosecutor as well as the head of the regional fiscal police and he was in possession of images showing lakeside villas belonging to local officials which were going to be published in Novyi Styl. Klymentyev was seen leaving his home in Kharkiv on 11 August 2010 with an unknown man in a BMW. He has not been heard from since. Seven days after he disappeared his mobile phone was found in an empty boat on the Pechenezhskoye Lake. Local police started an investigation, suspecting “premeditated murder”, which was later transferred to the Interior Ministry. The case was recognized as being related to Klymentyev’s professional activities, but no suspect was identified until August 2012. It was then announced that Andrey Kozar, a former employee of one of the special units of Kharkiv police, had been placed on the international wanted list. He has not been captured, nor have the instigators behind Klymentyev’s murder been identified.
Murder of Volodymyr Honcharenko: A well-known ecologist and public activist, Honcharenko was critical of the authorities for their lack of accountability with regards to environmental safety and security. On 1 August 2012, he was stopped in his car on the road and severely beaten by unidentified men. Despite suffering serious head trauma, Honcharenko managed to get home and explain what had happened to him, but later lost consciousness and passed away in hospital on 3 August.
At his last appearance in a press conference on 27 July, Honcharenko warned of a potential ‘chemical time bomb’ in the Saksaganskyi Region of Kryvyi Rog, where Honcharenko and his colleagues had discovered that 180 tons of chemically-contaminated and radioactive scrap metals were being moved around freely. Honcharenko’s colleagues and family are convinced that his work - in particular his latest public appearance - were the reason for the brutal attack on him. However, police are focusing their investigation into his death as connected to a road accident. Soon after his death the local authorities also dismissed Honcharenko’s claims about illegal transportation and storage of toxic waste in the town of Kryvyi Rih stating that they had proved ‘unfounded’.
Receive immediate or weekly updates on the right to freedom of expressionSubscribe
Help us support lorem sit ipsum dolor amet
Your donation dummy text about what their money does.Donate