OPEN LETTER OF CONCERN (for Embassies) over the recent decision to remove Mr Gunduz Mamedov from coordinating the work of the Department supervising the investigations of crimes committed during the armed conflict
We, representatives of civil society organisations, victims of the armed conflict and their representatives, are addressing you with this letter to express our deep concern and alert you to the recent decisions of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, Ms Iryna Venediktova, to remove the Deputy Prosecutor General, Mr Gunduz Mamedov (hereafter – “DPG”) from coordinating the work of the Department supervising the investigations of crimes committed during the armed conflict (hereafter – “WCD”) and replace him first with Mr Maksym Yakubovskyi as a responsible Deputy and a day later with herself. Such volatile and unfounded decisions will not only invalidate all the accomplishments of the civil society, victims and WCD of the past 7 years as regards the investigations and prosecution of grave crimes committed in the armed conflict in Ukraine, but it also puts in jeopardy any chance for the victims of the armed conflict to obtain justice for grave violations they suffered.
Investigating and prosecuting grave international crimes requires a specialist set of skills and knowledge, a different infrastructure and a legislative framework – an altogether different approach to the one used to prosecute ordinary crimes. This is a change, which DPG Mamedov has been actively promoting through his dedicated work from 2016, first at the Prosecutor’s Office of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol City, and since October 2019, at the central level at the Office of the Prosecutor General. He had spent years on developing and building necessary skills and knowledge of the international humanitarian law and international criminal law and passing it on to the prosecutors of the WCD and its regional branches. He has been open to cooperation with the CSOs, victims of the armed conflict and their representatives, as well as international experts in the area, and has had their fully consolidated support. Such initiatives have significantly contributed to the development of best practices in prosecuting grave crimes at the national level.
Furthermore, the situation in Ukraine was subject to preliminary examination by the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (hereafter – “OTP”, “ICC”) for 5 years, and at the end of last year, the OTP concluded that the results of the preliminary examination warranted a full investigation. This was a vital decision for the victims of the armed conflict in Ukraine, the one that gives them hope that their rights will be restored and those who had caused them unbearable pain and suffering would not go unpunished. The decision was the result of fruitful cooperation between the civil society organisations, and WCD fully supported, welcomed and encouraged the DPG Mamedov. Moreover, the draft law 2689, which aims to implement international humanitarian law into domestic law in May 2021, was finally adopted by the Verkhovna Rada following 6 years of relentless campaigning; victims and CSOs are now patiently awaiting the President’s signature for it to enter into force. The adoption of the law was also the result of active cooperation between the WCD, CSOs and with the support of the international community. Despite these intermittent positive results, prosecution of grave international crimes still requires a lot of work: prosecutors of the WCD require support in further developing their knowledge and skills in the application of international legal standards, case prioritisation and case allocation criteria, case document management systems, security, evidence procedures and public outreach policies to name a few. Development and realisation of these skills are only possible with the support of a strong, knowledgeable and experienced leader.
The decision is even more staggering in light of the fact that none of them, including the Prosecutor General herself, have any relevant knowledge, experience or even conceptual understanding of the above. Therefore, her motives are unclear. However, what is clear is that placing someone to supervise this work in the absence of the necessary knowledge and experience will have a crippling effect on all the positive developments and plans and will put an end to any hopes for justice for the victims of grave crimes.
In light of the above, the civil society organisations and victims associations are appealing to you with the request to recommend:
- to the Prosecutor General of Ukraine: to rescind her decision to replace DPG Mamedov with anyone who has no relevant knowledge and experience, and to return the WCD under the supervision of DPG Mamedov as soon as possible; to abstain from further attempts to subvert all the efforts aimed at ensuring justice and accountability for grave international crimes committed during the armed conflict in Ukraine by making unbalanced, ill-considered and misguided decisions;
- to the President of Ukraine: to ensure independence of the prosecutors of the WCD including DPG Mamedov.
Ukrainian Legal Advisory Group
DIYA Human Rights Center
Human Rights Center ZMINA
Crimean Human Rights Group
Media Initiative for Human Rights
Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union
NGO «Blue Bird»
Human Rights Platform
Eastern Ukrainian Center for Civic Initiatives
Regional Centre for Human Rights
Center for Civil Liberties
NGO “Donbas SOS”
NGO “Human Rights Vector”
Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group
Nina Branovytska, mother of Ihor Branovytskiy, detained, tortured and killed by armed groups
Yevhenia Zakrevska, Victims’ Lawyer
Vitaliy Tytych, Victims’ Lawyer
Ukrainian Movement of Hostages’ Families “Return Home»
Nina Vynyarska and Sergiy Kodman, sister and father of Oleksiy Kodman, illegally detained during 2015-2017 in Donetsk
NGO CCE “Almenda”
Human Rights House “Crimea”
Association of Relatives of Political Prisoners of the Kremlin
Regional Council of Crimean`s Ukrainians