Gongadze Killers Still Roam Free in Ukraine Say Journalists in New Call for Justice

The crisis-ridden government of Ukraine comes in for criticism today in a report published by the International Federation of Journalists and other journalists’ organisations who claim that the authorities continue to obstruct the investigation into the murder five years ago of journalist Gyorgy Gongadze.

“The people who authorised the brutal assassination of Gongadze still roam the corridors of power in Kiev,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “There will be no real democracy in Ukraine until there is justice in this case.”

The report, published jointly by the IFJ, the National Union of Journalists of Great Britain and Ireland, the Gongadze Foundation and the Institute of Mass Information, a Kiev-based press freedom NGO, has been issued to mark the fifth anniversary on Friday of the killing of internet journalist Gongadze, whose headless body was found in a ditch in a village outside Kiev.

Those responsible for his killing – specifically powerful figures who instigated and authorised the murder – are “getting away” says the report while a handful of individuals who took part in the immediate killing are taking full responsibility.

Shortly after the headless body of Gongadze was found in 2000 tapes made by a bodyguard of former president Leonid Kuchma, on which the president and other ministers could be heard planning to harm Gongadze, were made public.

Since then there has been a series of incompetent investigations into the case. There was renewed hope for progress last year after the “Orange revolution”, when the new president, Viktor Yushchenko, promised to make solving the murder a priority.

But, today’s report asserts that the investigation continues to be marked by serious negligence and the authorities are accused of steering it away from the powerful organisers of the crime and limit it to the immediate perpetrators.

The investigation has established that Gongadze was killed by a group of serving interior ministry officers, some of whom are expected to be tried shortly. But the leader of the group, General Olexiy Pukach, has disappeared. Former interior minister Yuri Kravchenko, a key witness, has died in mysterious circumstances.

At the same time, the Ukrainian general prosecutor has failed to examine the links between the case and the operation of death squads within the interior ministry. He has also failed to get the tapes made in former president Kuchma’s office to be accepted as evidence in court.

“This brutal killing casts a long shadow over Ukraine as it struggles to create a democracy worthy of the name,” said White. “But there will be no peace or democracy in Ukraine until there is justice for Gongadze. Those who abused their power to stifle the voice of a critical journalist must be exposed and brought to trial.”

This report updates a previous report issued in January.

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