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The appeal of Ukrainian human rights organizations to the President of Ukraine regarding a threat to existence of the Department supervising investigations of the armed conflict crimes

Dear Mr President,

We would like to draw your attention to the media attacks and undue interference with the Office of the Deputy Prosecutor `General (DPG) Gunduz `Mamedov in order to discredit his efforts aimed at ensuring effective investigations and accountability for the grave breaches of human rights and humanitarian law during armed conflict in Ukraine. We, as representatives of civil society organisations who work in the field of protection of human rights in armed conflict, are actively monitoring the work of state institutions, including the Office of Prosecutor `General aimed at ensuring accountability for the atrocity crimes committed in the territory of Ukraine. Effective investigations of such crimes is not only a duty of the state of Ukraine in accordance with its international obligations, but first and foremost, it is a duty before the victims of the armed conflict. It has been over 6 years since the armed conflict broke out in the territory of Ukraine, but for 5 years out of almost 7 investigations of grave crimes had not been a priority for investigative authorities. This had resulted in state authorities loosing trust from the victims, civil society and international partners.

From 2016 Gunduz Mamedov, having been appointed as a Prosecutor of Autonomous Republic of Crimea, with the help of civil society organised and systematised the work aimed at documenting grave crimes allegedly committed in the territory of Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol and effective cooperation with the Office of the `Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

However, in order to consolidate the investigations of grave crimes committed in both Donbas region and Crimea and to increase capacity of the entire domestic law – enforcement system, a Department supervising investigations of the crimes committed during armed conflict (“the Department”) was set up within the Office of the Prosecutor General at the end of last year and Gunduz Mamedov appointed as a responsible DPG. Ever since, we have been pleased to see progress achieved as to developing and applying consolidated and systematic approach to investigating both situations, special attention being paid to building professional and organisational capacity within the Department with expert support from international organisations, active engagement with the victims of grave crimes as well as regular communication with civil society and international partners. All these efforts are conducive to increasing overall capacity of Ukrainian law-enforcement system insofar as accountability for grave crimes is concerned at both domestic and international levels.

There is a great global public interest to a number of investigations supervised by the Department, such as downing of MH-17 flight, the Russian aggression, war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed during armed conflict in the territory of Ukraine.

Active media attacks (such as bot attacks on social media pages of the Office Prosecutor General pertaining to the work of the Department in general and Gunduz `Mamedov in particular, specifically updates about MH-17 and bombing of International Airlines of Ukraine flight in Tehran cases, spreading of publications in unreliable internet resources with unsubstantiated content, organised public meetings near family members’ place of work) and attempts to destruct and stall the work of the Department, are likely made with the aim to discredit the efforts to investigate and bring to accountability perpetrators of grave crimes. Being mindful of political circumstances under which the Department is operating, we do not exclude the possibility these attacks may contain the so called “Russian trace”.

Considering the above, the sensitivity and complexity of the investigations, great public interest including from the victims of grave crimes, we kindly ask you, Мr President, as a guarantor of the constitutional rights to ensure the independence and impartiality of DPG Mamedov is protected and preserved and the Department continues to operate without unwarranted interferences and undue influence.

Ukrainian Legal Advisory Group

Regional Center for Human Rights

Crimean Human Rights Group

Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group

Truth Hounds

Center for Civil Liberties

Crimea SOS

Mustafa Dzhemilev, Leader of the Crimean Tatar People

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