News

May 14, 2003 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Explanation wanted for amnesty granted to those charged in Gongadze case


Reporters Without Borders today demanded an explanation for the amnesties given to two judicial officials who were accused of neglect, abuse of authority and falsifying documents in the investigation into the disappearance of journalist Georgiy Gongadze in September 2000. The two officials were the only persons every charged in this case. Sergiy Obozov, investigating judge with the prosecutor's office in Tarachtcha (the town where Gongadze's body was found), was amnestied on 25 April. He had been accused of serious dereliction of duty in his investigation of the case. Sergiy Belinskiy, the Tarachtcha prosecutor, was sentenced to two and a half years in prison on 6 May for his role in the case, but was immediately amnestied and released "because of his family situation." According to the indictment of 10 September 2002, Belinskiy was accused of failing to have the victim's body identified when it was discovered and of falsifying the results of the first autopsy that was carried out. "With deep concern, we note the lack of results in the investigation into Gongadze's murder, despite your stated wish to get to the bottom of this case," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said in a letter to Ukraine's attorney general, Sviatoslav Piskun. "In accordance with the wishes of Gongadze's widow, Myroslava Gongadze, we demand an explanation for the amnesty accorded to the only persons charged in this case, and we request access to all the documents in the investigation against them." A political journalist and editor of the online newspaper www.pravda.com.ua, the 31 year old Gongadze was well known for his articles criticising the Ukrainian government. His disappearance on 16 September 2000 became a national issue after the broadcasting six weeks later of recordings supposedly made in President Kuchma's office which seemed to implicate very senior officials in his death. A Reporters Without Borders fact-finding mission in January 2001 found very serious shortcomings in the official investigation. Under the former attorney general Mikhailo Potebenko, who was elected to the Ukrainian parliament in March 2001, the primary aim of the investigation had been to protect the authorities rather than seek the truth. Shortly after taking over as attorney general in July 2002, Piskun accorded Ménard the status of legal representative of the plaintiffs, who had until then been systematically denied any information about the case. The prosecutor's office then allowed Ménard to see the results of the forensic reports and, in January 2003, to arrange an independent forensic investigation that established with certainty that the body was that of Gongadze.