Ukraine21 November 2005
Court orders reinstatement of prosecutor-general discredited in Gongadze case
A court in Kiev on 18 November 2005 ordered the reinstatement of Sviatoslav Piskun to the post of prosecutor-general, the job from which he was sacked on 14 October.
Ukraine’s justice system, but also politicians and the media had all blamed him for the lack of progress in investigations into the abuses of the previous regime, in particular the murder in 2000 of online journalist Géorgiy Gongadze.
Justice Minister, Sergei Golovaty, criticised the reinstatement ruling and said there could be an appeal against the decision.
- - - - -
European Court of Human Rights condemns Kiev over Gongadze case
9 November 2005
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg on 8 November 2005 condemned the Ukrainian authorities over the case of online journalist Géorgiy Gongadze, who was murdered in 2000, in response to an application from his widow Miroslava Gongadze.
The judges unanimously concluded that the authorities had “failed to protect the life of the applicant’s husband”. They also pointed up violations, including inhumane and degrading treatment and denial of her right to an effective remedy. As a result, Kiev was ordered to pay Miroslava Gongadze 100,000 euros in damages.
The Ukrainian parliament on 3 November confirmed President Viktor Yushchenko’s nomination of Oleksandr Medvedko to the post of Ukraine’s prosecutor-general. At his inaugural speech, he said he cherished the hope of a positive result in the investigation into who instigated the murder of the editor of Ukrainskaïa Pravda and said that his office would collaborate on the case with the Ukrainian secret services.
- - - - -
President sacks prosecutor-general Piskun
14 october 2005
President Viktor Yushchenko today sacked prosecutor-general Sviatoslav Piskun, who local media and politicians have criticised recently for lack of progress in investigating the murder in 2000 of journalist Georgy Gongadze.
Piskoun told the Interfax news agency he was “glad” to be sacked and would now enter politics. He was named prosecutor-general in 2002 and dismissed in 2003 by then-President Leonid Kuchma. He was reappointed at the end of last year by decision of a Kiev court.
Sergy Holovaty, the recently-named justice minister who is Gongadze’s mother’s former lawyer, told the TV station NTN on 10 October that no progress would be made in the enquiry as long as Piskun was prosecutor-general.
The authorities said in March they knew who ordered the journalist’s murder but their names have still not been officially revealed.
- - - - -
Ex-President Kuchma accused of ordering journalist Georgy Gongadze’s murder
21 September 2005
A Ukrainian parliamentary enquiry has accused former President Leonid Kuchma of ordering the kidnapping and murder in 2000 of opposition journalist Georgy Gongadze and said the current president of parliament, Volodymyr Litvin who headed Kuchma’s office at the time, was also actively involved.
The commission of enquiry, chaired by Grigory Omelchenko, said in its 20 September report it had concluded this from recorded conversations between the two men. It said more than 30 policemen were spying on Gongadze at the time. Kuchma refused to comment on the commission’s accusations, which Litvin dismissed on 21 September as a “provocation.”
Parliament meanwhile ordered Omelchenko to hand his conclusions to state legal officials. But Omelchenko said he feared the prosecutor-general was dragging his feet in the case and called on parliament to pass a motion of censure and to dismiss Litvin.
Prosecution of the two politicians is regarded as unlikely. “The report has a shaky legal basis and is politically biased,” said Ukrainian political scientist Volodymyr Malinkovich.
- - - - -
Five years after Georgiy Gongadze’s murder those who instigated the killing remain in the shadows
15 September 2005
Five years after the 16 September 2000 disappearance of online editor Georgiy Gongadze, whose decapitated body was found on 2 November 2000, an investigation led to the killers but the instigators have still not been named by the prosecutor’s office, despite repeated promises by President Viktor Yushchenko.
Prosecutor-General Sviatoslav Piskun announced the closure of the investigation on 8 August and police officers Valery Kostenko, Mikola Protasov and Oleksandr Popovych have been charged with abducting and killing the 31-year-old editor of opposition news website Ukrainska Pravda (www.pravda.com.ua). A fourth suspect, General Olexi Pukach, is being sought under an international arrest warrant. Gongadze’s widow, Myroslava, and mother Lessia Gongadze, both believe the case should remain open until the instigators and Gen. Pukach have been arrested.
“Over the five years of the investigation an incalculable number of mistakes and interference have been uncovered," said Reporters Without Borders. “It is appalling that despite repeated official statements a resolution of the case remains as far away as ever.”“We would like in particular to remind President Viktor Yushchenko of the promises he made before the press on 1st March 2005 in which he said ’the Gongadze case had been cleared up’ and it was now a case of “following through to the instigators’”“We will not be satisfied just with charges against those who carried out this squalid crime. We are still waiting for all those responsible, at every level, to be unmasked and punished,” the organisation added.
The press and the justice system have uncovered an enormous amount of new information since 3 March this year. The prosecutor’s office revealed that Gongadze was kidnapped and bundled into a car outside his home by three police officers accompanied by Gen. Pukach. It was the general who is believed to have personally strangled the journalist before burying his body in the forest in Tarashcha.A
key witness in the case, former interior minister under President Leonid Kuchma, Yuri Kravchenko, who could have shed new light on the investigation died in mysterious circumstances. He was found dead with two gunshot wounds to the head in an apparent suicide at his country house south of Kiev on 4 March, the day he was due to be interviewed by the prosecutor’s office. Nothing filtered out after the prosecutor-general questioned Kuchma on 10 March, although the former president publicly denied all involvement with the murder.
Relations between the journalist’s family and the new government in Kiev remain rocky. The European Court of Human Rights on 31 March declared as “admissible” a complaint laid by Gongadze’s widow. She had accused the Ukrainian authorities of “failing to investigate the case in a coherent and effective manner” and failing "to protect my husband’s life”.
President Yushchenko told Myroslava Gongadze, during a 20 April meeting, that he knew the names of the instigators of her husband’s murder.
Myroslava and Lessia Gongadze were allowed to see the case file for the first time in five years on 1st August and on 24 August President Viktor Yushchenko awarded Georgiy Gongadze the title of “Hero of Ukraine”.
Myroslava Gongadze said on 9 September that President Yushchenko had no intention of fully clearing up the case. A few days later, Lessia Gongadze’s lawyer said that the results of a fifth DNA test on the body of her son had been inconclusive.
Georgiy Gongadze went missing on the evening of 16 September 2000 and his beheaded and mutilated body was found on 2 November.
In the months before his disappearance, Gongadze had felt himself to be in danger. Security forces kept him under surveillance and he was tailed by unknown people in a car with police number plates. He said he felt in “mortal terror” and in an open letter to Ukraine’s prosecutor-general Mikhailo Potebenko on 14 July 2000 he spoke about a “planned provocation with the objective, at best, of frightening me, and at the worst of stopping me from doing my job”. The threats against him were not taken seriously by the justice system.