The tragic events of April 8th 2003 when three journalists were killed by American military in Baghdad will haunt the United States until it carries out independent inquiries into the deaths, says the International Federation of Journalists today following the news that Spain has issued warrants for the arrest of three soldiers.
The IFJ says that there are 18 deaths of journalists and media staff at the hands of US soldiers since the invasion of Iraq that still require proper investigation. One of those cases involves ITN Cameraman Fred Nérac who was killed almost three years ago, but whose body was never found and whose death was confirmed yesterday by French authorities.
The events in Baghdad on April 8th when a US tank fired on the Palestine Hotel, a media centre in the heart of Baghdad, killing Spanish cameraman José Couso and Reuters journalist Taras Protsyuk and an earlier attack on the offices of Al-Jazeera television which killed reporter Tareq Ayyoub were highlighted yesterday when Spanish judge Santiago Pedraz called for the extradition of three soldiers to face charges of murder and a “crime against the international community.”
“This decision is a victory for those campaigning for justice and the truth behind the killings of media staff,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “There must be an end to the arrogant disregard by the United States authorities of the outrage felt by many in journalism over the sense that these deaths have not been fully explained and that the responsible authorities have not been made accountable.”
The arrest warrants have been issued against Sgt. Thomas Gibson, a tank commander, and his superior officers Captain Philip Wolford and Lt Colonel Philip D. Camp, all of them assigned to the 3rd infantry division which carried out the attack. The examining magistrate in Spain issued the warrants after failed attempts to question the soldiers over the Palestine Hotel attack. The United States authorities refused to respond to requests for access to the men.
“Although this court action only concerns the death of José Couso,” said White, “every journalist and media worker killed or injured in all of these incidents has a stake in the demand that the United States comes clean about every case in which there are unanswered questions.”
For the past two years world-wide protests have been organised by journalists’ unions on April 8th over the US failure to carry out independent and extensive inquiries into the media deaths. “These protests will continue until justice is delivered,” said White.
Meanwhile, the IFJ said the news about cameraman Fred Nérac, who with reporter Terry Lloyd and translator Hussein Osman was one of three members of an ITN team killed in a fire fight near Basra on March 21st 2003, drew to a close a period of painful uncertainty about his fate.
“Our thoughts today are with his wife Fabienne and his children,” said White. “But now we must redouble our efforts to find out what really happened on the road to Basra on that fateful day.”
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries