Gongadze v. Ukraine

Key Judgment


Legal Relevance

Keywords: Refusal to Disclose Fate | Relatives as Victims | Right to Know the Truth | Effective Remedy | Duty to Investigate | Duty to Prosecute | Reparations | Obligation to Prevent | Deprivation of Liberty

Themes: Related Crimes | Characteristics of the Crime | Memory and Reparations | Prevention | Justice and Truth

The Court was satisfied that police officers were involved in the victim's disappearance and murder, and found that the authorities failed to comply with their positive obligation to protect him from a known risk to his life. This was based on the fact that they ought to have been aware of the vulnerable position of a political journalist vis-à-vis those in power, and the fact that they ignored the victim's claims of being threatened and under surveillance. The Court also found a procedural violation of the right to life, holding that for years the authorities were more preoccupied with proving the lack of involvement of high-level officials in the case than with discovering the truth about the victim’s disappearance and death. The Court further made a finding of degrading treatment with respect to the victim’s wife, due to the fact that during the two and a half years which passed between the victim’s disappearance and the confirmation of his death she received numerous contradictory statements from the authorities about his fate, and due to the attitude of the investigating authorities which caused her serious suffering.

Judgment Date

February 8, 2006

Country

Ukraine

Judicial Body

European Court of Human Rights

Articles violated

Article 2 (procedural) [ECHR], Article 2 (substantive) [ECHR], Article 3 [ECHR], Article 13 [ECHR]

Facts of the Case

In July 2000 Mr. Georgiy Gongadze, an anti-government political journalist, informed the authorities that his relatives, friends and colleagues had been interviewed about him by law enforcement officers and that unknown persons in a car had been following him. In September 2000, he was informed that there were no grounds for the adoption of any protective measures. After two weeks, Mr. Gongadze disappeared. In November 2000, the decapitated body of an unknown person, whose characteristics corresponded to those of Mr. Gongadze, was discovered. The body was removed from the morgue, all documents relating to the forensic examination were confiscated, and the expert who conducted the autopsy was prohibited from talking about it and later became the subject of criminal proceedings. In December 2000 an investigation into the murder of the unidentified person was initiated. The Prosecutor General informed Parliament that despite the positive findings of the forensic examination, the identity of the body could not be confirmed as witnesses claimed to have seen Mr. Gongadze alive after his disappearance. In April 2001, additional identification tests confirmed that the body was that of the victim. In May 2001, the Minister of the Interior announced that the two presumed murderers of Mr. Gongadze had died and that the case was solved, adding that the murder had not been driven by political motives. Another investigation was opened in September 2002, and in January 2003 the parliamentary ad hoc committee announced that the persons responsible for the death of Mr. Gongadze were members of the police. In 2003, police officers and officials of the Ministry of the Interior were accused of kidnapping and killing Mr. Gongadze. In September 2005, the ad hoc committee investigating the murder of Mr. Gongadze concluded that the kidnap and murder had been organised by the former President and the late Minister of the Interior.

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