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Iraq13 May 2003

Incredulity at British refusal to help investigate disappearance of two ITN crew members

Reporters Without Borders today voiced its shock at British defence minister Geoff Hoon’s refusal to open an investigation into the disappearance to two ITN crew members in southern Iraq until ITN proves a war crime was committed. The US authorities announced they were investigating the case on 28 April.

"Geoff Hoon’s refusal is absolutely incredible," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard. "The British army controls the city of Basra and southern Iraq. Only its full cooperation in the enquiry already opened by the US military authorities will enable us to find out what happened to the two missing journalists and to establish the facts," he said.

Ménard added: "In what country would you see policemen tell victims that they will only open an investigation when the facts are already established and the evidence has been produced that there was a crime? On the contrary, it is the British army’s duty to help discover the truth."

Stewart Purvis, the director general of the London-based Independent Television News (ITN) reported at a press conference in London yesterday that Hoon refused to open an enquiry until ITN produced evidence that a war crime was committed.

French cameraman Fred Nerac and Lebanese interpreter Hussein Othman have been missing since the four-member ITN crew they were working with came under fire on 22 March near Basra during fighting between Iraqi forces and US marines. The other two members of the team were British reporter Terry Lloyd, 51, who was killed in the incident, and Belgian cameraman Daniel Demoustier, who was wounded.

ITN and Nerac’s wife Fabienne Nerac are calling for a "full and transparent" investigation by the British military police into the circumstances of the incident.

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