The situation with the Department of Monitoring Criminal Proceedings On Crimes Committed under Armed Conflict (hereinafter referred to as the “Department of War”) remains serious and involves a risk for a comprehensive investigation of war crimes. This was concluded by human rights activists after a meeting with the Prosecutor General Irina Venediktova, organized because of the “briefing on chairs”.
As Ms Olha Skrypnyk, Head of Crimean Human Rights Group said, with a 2-hour’s meeting with the Prosecutor General finished, the human rights activists had no idea what had become a reason to remove Giunduz Mamedov.
“Although the meeting lasted more than two hours, we did not receive an answer to the main question: what did cause such a harsh decision (appointment of Yakubovsky and reassignment of the department)? We were told that Ms.Venediktova had received two letters from the Security Bureau of Ukraine (SBU), that formed a basis for cancelling Gunduz Mamedov’s access access to state secrets. However, no real reasons were given to confirm the removal of Mamedov. Moreover, Irina Venediktova said she was ready to continue to cooperate with Gunduz Mamedov on investigating war crimes. And this is strange: if they have issues with him, how are they going to work with him? Therefore, our fears that this may be a politically motivated decision, that this is the wish to have a personal influence on investigations related to, inter alia, Medvedchuk and MH17, and war crimes in the occupied territories, have clearly been confirmed, ”said Olha Skrypnyk.
According to Ms.Skrypnyk, Irina Venediktova assured at the same time that there would be no other staff changes regarding Crimea and Donbass activity.
“However, we do not believe that alternatives should be supported: if there are no serious reasons for removing Gunduz Mamedov, then he should not be removed. At the moment, human rights activists working on the subjects of Crimea and Donbass do not see other candidates in the prosecutor’s office to work in the “Department of War”, which efficiency has been confirmed by the specific results of the work already done,” the CHRG head pointed out.
As noted by Ms.Skrypnyk, the situation with the “Department of War” remains a serious risk for investigating the war crimes.
“The situation occurred leads to serious risks: if there are doubts, mistrust in the decisions of the department’s management, the entire department is under threat. If we cannot trust how the victims, affected, witnesses will cooperate with the state department, even if prosecutors working on specific cases remain? If there is no effective top management, there is no trust in it, what results can we talk about?”- the human rights activist says.
We would remind that the Department of Monitoring Criminal Proceedings On Crimes Committed under Armed Conflict (“Department of War”) was established in November 2019 through consolidated efforts of public organizations involved in the investigation of war crimes, and prosecutor’s office staff who understood the importance of such a unit.
This department was headed by Gunduz Mamedov, who since 2016 had been dealing with documenting war crimes and crimes against humanity, once he had been a head of the Prosecutor’s Office of the ARC (Autonomous Republic of Crimea).
The department has structured activity on identifying crimes against the national security principles in the temporarily occupied territories and coordinated the relevant investigation. The department has investigated the illegal displacement of persons, political and religious persecution, the militarization of children, and torture.
The department also cooperated with the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, in particular, it was in charge of transferring evidence of Russia’s crimes in Crimea and Donbass.
In August 2020, there were already attempts to destroy this department and remove Gunduz Mammadov from office.
By order of June 29, 2021, Prosecutor General Irina Venediktova transferred the Department of Monitoring Criminal Proceedings On Crimes Committed under Armed Conflict to another deputy, Maxim Yakubovsky, who is associated with Putin’s ally Viktor Medvedchuk.
However, the same day in the evening Irina Venediktova re-subordinated the “Department of War” to her own.
In addition, it became known that Gunduz Mammadov was also deprived of access to state secrets.
On July 2, human rights activists held a “briefing on chairs” in Kyiv at the Office of the Prosecutor General. They stated that the fate of dozens of victims of war crimes has been jeopardized, since the actions of the prosecutor general might lead to the destruction of the “department of war”, and this would help criminals avoid responsibility for mass violations of human rights, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the occupied territories of Ukraine.
The public has appealed to President Zelensky with a demand to ensure the independent work of the “department of war” without any influence of Ms.Venediktova.