• Topics / The right to a fair trial
• Topics / Freedom of expression
Court refuses to make Pukach trial open – to "not harm national interests"
On 1 March the Pechersky District Court in Kyiv rejected an application from Myroslava Gongadze’s lawyer, Valentina Telychenko to have the trial of Oleksy Pukach over the murder of Georgy Gongadze made open to the public.
As reported here, on 27 February a number of journalist organizations registered a statement demanding that the trial be open.
According to Oksana Romanyuk, representative of Reporters without Borders in Ukraine, the court justified its decision to keep the trial behind closed doors as being that it threatens Ukraine’s national interests. The court also asserted that when the new Criminal Procedure Code is passed, they will make the hearings mixed – open/closed.
Oksana Romanyuk says that journalists will continue seeking to have the trial open. “This case is of public interest and is symbolic for Ukraine. While this case remains closed, Ukraine will remain a symbol of a criminal regime and of corruption. It is in the government’s interests to open up this trial it would be a sign for the world, it would be a big positive move for Ukraine”.
Given the obvious wish by those in power to drag the case out and conceal as much as possible about it, the need to stress the issues overrides our wish not to repeat material. Here, then are the relevant parts of the journalist statement first issued on 30 January this year.
The statement by Stop Censorship and the Ukrainian Media Association, supported by Reporters without Borders expresses deep concern over the lack of any progress in establishing the truth and bringing those who commissioned Georgy Gongadze’s murder to justice during the last two years.
“The trial of O. Pukach remains totally behind closed doors although among the 116 volumes of the case only around 10 volumes are secret. Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights stipulates the right to an open trial and a minimum number of closed court hearings linked with the need to protect State secrets. We consider the closed nature of the entire trial to be a violation of the public’s and the victims’ right to receive information of public importance. We believe that in this way they are creating artificial means of obstructing journalists from carrying out their professional duties.
We believe that the fragmentation of the Gongadze case is hampering establishment of the truth as to who really ordered the murder. At present there are 5 cases linked with the murder of Georgy Gongadze – 1) on the charges against O. Pukach; 2) on the charges against Yury Kravchenko (former Internal Affairs Minister who officially committed suicide in early 2005 – translator); 3) on the charges against Leonid Kuchma; and 4) against other people implicated in the killing (a case existing mainly for speculation). There is also the case on the charges against Mykola Melnychenko which is apparently being investigated by the Security Service Investigation Department. Yet according to the law, if the crime is one and the same, then dividing up a case is possible only when there are significant obstructions to their being examined together. As a minimum, the cases against Kravchenko and Kuchma need to be combined into one.
We demand that clarity be immediately established regarding those people whose names at least figure in the testimony of Pukach and Melnychenko (Volodymyr Lytvyn; L. Derkach; Y. Marchuk; O. Moroz; E. Fere and others). There is the same mass of evidence against them as against Kravchenko and Kuchma (the evidence of O. Pukach and the Melnychenko tapes), yet there is no decision refusing to initiate criminal proceedings, nor a decision to initiate these. We demand an immediate end to political games around the Gongadze case.
We strongly condemn the refusal by the Prosecutor General’s Office to investigate obstruction of the investigation in the Gongadze case, including obstructing identification of the people involved in falsifying and blocking investigation in 2000-2004; establishing and obstructing the investigation into L. Kuchma’s role, etc. The fact that there had been such obstruction was first established by the judgement of the European Court of Human Rights in the Case of Gongadze v. Ukraine from 8 November 2005. “
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