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CPJ: The case on Sheremet murder has gone cold

Kyiv, July 12, 2017.

The case on Pavel Sheremet’s murder has gone cold and there are many questions to investigating authorities, according to the report of Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), presented at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.

What’s wrong with the investigation?  

“The case has gone cold. No motive has been confirmed. A significant amount of time and manpower has been devoted to pursuing the so-called ‘tracks’ based on little or no evidence, while there are some leads that have been paid less attention. The killers, seen on security camera footage planting the bomb, have not been identified, let alone apprehended. Crucial video evidence surfaced thanks only to investigative journalists who found and published it in the documentary ‘Killing Pavel’. […] Dozens of people, including Pavel’s family, friends and journalist colleagues I spoke with for this report, blamed authorities’ incompetence, negligence or sabotage, or a combination of all of the above. All of these raise serious concerns about investigators’ ability, credibility, motivation, objectivity, and transparency,” stated Christopher Miller, journalist at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

The key questions of concern are who exactly from what agency is in charge of the investigation – Prosecutor General or the Head of the National Police; who surveilled and threatened ‘Ukrainska Pravda’ journalists in advance of Sheremet murder, why the authorities did not make public the photo of a woman who planted the bomb into the car – which would have helped to find her, what are details of the alibi of former SBU agent Igor Usitimenko.

“Investigators told us that the Sheremet case consists of hundreds of volumes, each containing hundreds of pages of collected data. They repeatedly stated that they consider this case a priority and are working hard to solve it. Yet, a year after the murder there are no identified suspects, no arrests, no prosecutions, and no justice delivered. We expect more than hard work. We expect results. […]  If Ukraine is genuine in its commitment to EU principles, it must demonstrate clear progress in solving Sheremet’s case. For its part, the EU must make solving the case an immediate priority and set it as a benchmark for accessing the success of Ukraine’s reforms,” emphasized Nina Ognianova, Coordinator of CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia Program.

Is any positive progress expected?

There is hope for positive progress, says Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, after CPJ meeting with the President. “President Poroshenko proposed incorporating an internationally recognized investigator into the national team, with the approval of the Sheremet family. The creation of such a mechanism would require the support of Ukrainian civil society, but could add heft and an element of independent oversight to the investigation,” he noted. Secondly, the team of producers of “Killing Pavel” have agreed, on a trial basis, to share information with government investigators and vice versa.

CPJ recommends the Ukrainian authorities to reinvigorate the investigation by focusing Sheremet’s journalistic work in Ukraine as the possible motive for the crime; following up on the findings of independent investigation; provide regular substantive progress reports to the public and promptly respond to interview requests about the investigation.

“The failure conveys a sense of impunity, that it is ok to kill journalists, or threaten them, or intimidate them. … Who killed Pavel Sheremet? We need to know. Ukraine – if it is to become the country it wants to be – wants to know. The world needs to know,” stressed Alan Rusbridger, member of the board of directors of the Committee to Protect Journalists, former editor-in-chief of “The Guardian” in London.

CPJ representatives confirmed that both National Police and Prosecutor General’s Office are considering a press conference on July 20, the anniversary of Pavel’s killing.

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