Tuesday, April 27, 2010

CPJ seeks Pentagon investigations in Iraq journalist deaths

"Dear Secretary Gates:

The Committee to Protect Journalists is disturbed by a video recently disclosed by the Web site WikiLeaks showing a U.S. military strike that took place on July 12, 2007. The attack killed an unspecified number of individuals, including Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen and his assistant, Saeed Chmagh.

CPJ has made numerous calls for thorough and transparent investigations into the deaths of these two men, as well as into all other cases of journalists and media workers killed by U.S. fire in Iraq. The U.S. military's Central Command said it has no current plans to reopen an investigation, Reuters reported on April 8. But in light of the fact that at least 16 journalists and three media support workers have been killed by U.S. forces’ fire, according to CPJ’s research, a systematic and comprehensive investigation is clearly warranted. The findings should be made public and lessons learned should be incorporated into military training to reduce the likelihood that journalists covering combat operations will come under fire.

The recently disclosed tape has been viewed by millions around the world. Several experts on international humanitarian law, including Amnesty International’s Malcolm Smart and Bibi van Ginkel, a lawyer and senior fellow at the Clingendael Netherlands Institute of International Relations, have called for investigations to determine whether U.S. forces complied with international humanitarian law.

In the video, U.S. forces can be seen opening fire on a group of men—some of whom they said they believed were armed—killing or critically injuring at least a dozen people. We are particularly concerned that the troops in the helicopter mistook a camera for a weapon. This is not the first such claim by the U.S. military. In August 2003, a U.S. soldier killed Reuters photographer Mazen Dana after mistaking, according to the military’s investigation, Dana’s camera for a rocket-propelled grenade.

The WikiLeaks tape identifies one of the injured men in the July 12 strike as Chmagh. Soldiers are heard urging him to pick up a weapon so that they can fire. A van approaches to evacuate the man identified as Chmagh. Someone in the helicopter is heard informing a commander that the van is “possibly” picking up bodies as well as weapons. Despite the fact that no weapons are visible in the video, the helicopter is granted permission to fire and does so, killing Chmagh and several people in the van and injuring children.

It is crucial that any future investigation satisfactorily determine why an injured media worker who posed no threat to U.S. personnel was fatally shot as he was being evacuated from the scene of an initial attack, also perpetrated by U.S. fire.

The attached appendix lists the 16 journalists and three media support workers who have been killed by U.S. forces’ fire in Iraq......"

No comments: