Photojournalist, he was part of the photographers collective “Cesura”, of which he had been one of the founders. Originally from Pavia, Rocchelli, after a specialist degree at the Polytechnic of Milan, worked for the photographic agency Grazia Neri and then travelled extensively in North Africa (in Tunisia and Libya he had followed the riots of 2011), and in Russia and Eastern Europe, areas in which he had a keen interest and where he had documented human rights violations in Kyrgyzstan and Ingushetia. He had also worked on the conditions of migrants in southern Italy and documented their exploitation by organized crime. His photos have been published by Italian and international newspapers such as Newsweek, Le Monde, The Wall Street Journal and Novaya Gazeta. Rocchelli died aged 30. He was killed together with his colleague and friend Andrej Mironov (a Russian journalist and political activist, a member for several years of the Italian Radical Party), near the city of Sloviansk, in Eastern Ukraine, while documenting the conditions of the civilians trapped during the Donbass conflict. The two, unarmed, were hit by mortar fire during clashes between the Ukrainian army and the National Guard, on the one hand and pro-Russian independence activists on the other. With them were a local driver and a French photojournalist, William Roguelon, who was seriously injured.
(Updated by Luciana Borsatti – 3 May 2020)
- In 2019, to punish those responsible for the death of Andrea Rocchelli, the Italian justice system issued a first instance sentence exemplary of its kind. The first instance trial at the Court of Assizes of Pavia ended in July 2019 with the sentence of 24 imprisonment on an Italian-Ukrainian, already in custody, who was a member of the Ukrainian National Guard. Ossigeno followed all the hearings with particular attention and gave an account (read more here). The Pavia ruling was appealed and challenged by the Ukrainian authorities and others. The decision then goes back to the judges. Whatever their eventual decision might be, the first instance sentence has already marked an important precedent with respect to the justifications usually invoked by the accused in these trials. That is that the responsibility for killing journalists in military conflicts cannot be attributed generically and impersonally to war. In fact, there are war crimes and individual responsibilities that must be followed upin order to protect reporters and all other “inconvenient” witnesses who risk their lives to document publicly violations of humanitarian principles and atrocities that are committed involving civilians and the weakest, so that they are prevented and punished (Read here the comment by Ossigeno).
- 2016 – In May the last photos taken by Andrea Rocchelli were found while he was under fire, before being killed. Among other things, the photos document the timing of the gunfire , conformation of the place where the victims were and the fact that he and the people who were with him wore civilian clothes.
- 2017 – On the 1st July, after three years of investigations by the Parma Public Prosecutor’s Office and the special operations group of the Carabinieri, the Italo-Ukrainian Vitaly Markiv was arrested on his arrival at Bologna airport, accused of having participated in the militia group of the National Guard who allegedly fired the mortar rounds that killed Andrea Rocchelli and Andrej Mironov and seriously wounded the Frenchman William Roguelon. The charge is of complicity in premeditated homicide. Vitaly Markiv was born in Ukraine in 1989 and arrived in Italy in 2002 with his mother and sister. Two years later his mother marries an Italian, becoming an Italian citizen and, when he turns 18, he too takes Italian citizenship. The family lives in the Marche. Then for work reasons he moves to the province of Rimini. When the conflict in the Donbass erupts between government and pro-Russian militias, Vitaly Markiv returns to his country of origin and volunteers to join the National Guard. Here he would have had a leading role in a militia installed on a hill in the town of Sloviansk, where Rocchelli and Mironov met their deaths.
- 2018 – On the 6th July the trial for conspiracy to murder begins in Pavia against Vitaly Markiv, 29, a former Ukrainian National Guard soldier with dual Italian and Ukrainian citizenship. The civil action of Andy Rocchelli’s family members is accepted, requesting that the state of Ukraine answer for his death. The National Federation of the Italian Press (Fnsi), the Lombard Association of Journalists (Alg) and the Cesura association of photographers also form civil parties. . The trial is covered in-depth by Ossigeno per l’Informazione in collaboration with La Provincia Pavese, the National Union of Italian Chroniclers and the Order of Journalists of Lombardy. Giacomo Bertoni’s articles are published on the oxygen.info website and are forwarded to the Representative for Freedom of the Media of the OSCE, Harlem Désir in Vienna, who closely follows the progress of the trial. Much attention was also paid to the proceedings by the Ukrainian authorities and by the Ukrainian community in Italy. In particular,attending one of the hearings, on May 17th 2019, was the Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, who arrived in Pavia – he explained to reporters – to stand alongside the leaders of the Ukrainian National Guard called to testify, and according to whom Vitaly Markiv is innocent and is considered at home “a war hero”.
- 2019 – The trial ends on the 12th July, with Markiv’s sentence to 24 years in prison, seven more than those requested by the prosecutor Andrea Zanoncelli as the Court of Assizes did not consider the generic extenuating circumstances invoked by the accused to exist . In the sentence, the Court orders a request be sent to the Government by the Prosecutor’s Office, to prosecute an officer of the Ukrainian National Guard, Bogdan Matkivsky, at the time of the incident the platoon commander of the accused. “For us it is however a difficult moment. But this sentence does justice to Andrea and to all journalists who risk their lives to tell the truth “, declared the parents of Andrea Rino Rocchelli and Elisa Signori.” This sentence – writes Alberto Spampinato in a comment on the Ossigeno per l’Informazione website – aroused surprise and protests from the defendants’ supporters, according to whom the probative system does not justify the sentence. All of this will be reviewed in the appeal process. It is to be hoped that the effort to achieve justice is confirmed, together with the sharp, absolute “no” that the sentence opposes the fatalism that has always dominated these incidents, justifying, forgiving, reducing the crimes to minor collateral damage with which the military forces in the field eliminate the most uncomfortable witnesses, journalists who could document inhuman acts against civilians, or the disproportionate and instrumental use of military force (…). Statistics from UNESCO indicate that impunity for these murders is almost absolute. The Pavia sentence breaks this impunity. ” The conclusions reached by the Pavia judges are published on the blog named after Rocchelli. The decision also stigmatizes the silence, misdirection and uncooperative attitude of the Ukrainian authorities in the search for truth. On July 17th , the Ukrainian Foreign Minister summoned the Italian ambassador inKiev defining the sentence as “unjust” and asks for “a thorough and impartial investigation” in view of the appeal process. On the 25th July, President Volodimir Zelensky spoke with the Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, defining the sentence as “unjustifiably severe”.
- 2020 – Criticisms of the Pavia sentence also came from the Italian Radical Party who among other things support the investigation into the circumstances of Rocchelli’s death and the production of the documentary “The Wrong Place”, made by independent journalists, sponsored by the Italian Human Rights Federation (Fidu) and presented in Rome on February 14th 2020. The documentary – curated by Cristiano Tinazzi, Olga Tokariuk, Danilo Elia and Ruben Lagattolla – is among the winners of the 2020 Investigative Grant Program of the Justice for Journalists Foundation (JFJ), proposes a different reconstruction of the facts and will be released in September 2020.