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Ukraine22 July 2002

Gongadze prosecutors accept help from European forensic experts

A new expert examination of recorded phone calls implicating Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma in the September 2000 disappearance of murdered journalist Georgy Gongadze has been ordered, as well as a new analysis of the remains of the body, both with the help of experts from member-countries of the Council of Europe, the Ukrainian general prosecutor’s office said on 19 July.

Reporters Without Borders which, along with Gongadze’s mother Alexandra and his widow Myroslava, has been calling for more than a year for such experts to be employed, welcomed this development. However, it stressed that the reopening of the investigation, which the authorities finally agreed to under international pressure, not be limited to a new DNA analysis of the remains and a new examination of the "Melnichenko tapes."

While necessary, these alone could not take the place of the thorough enquiry needed into why the journalist disappeared and was murdered, it emphasised.

The organisation noted that involvement of officials of the interior ministry and the public prosecutor’s office in acts of intimidation just before Gongadze disappeared, as well as involvement of the prosecutor’s office in attempts to hush up the case in the weeks as soon as the body was found, have still not been investigated. A complaint about the intimidation filed by Gongadze’s mother against former general prosecutor Mihailo Potebenko, who now has parliamentary immunity, has not been dealt with.

Reporters Without Borders repeats its request

to the Ukrainian authorities, to open a new and thorough enquiry into how and why Gongadze was murdered, to involve European experts in each stage of the investigation, to respect his family’s right to be a civil party to it and allow representatives of Gongadze’s mother to be present during the work of the enquiry. A French forensic expert is in touch with her and available for this.

to Council of Europe member-states, to offer the help of suitable experts to the prosecutor’s office and to make this conditional on acceptance of the Gongadze family’s right to be a civil party and on a promise by the Ukrainian legal authorities not to obstruct or limit the investigation.

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