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Iraq30 May 2003

Britain and France urged to investigate disappearance of ITN cameraman Fred Nérac and Lebanese colleague

Reporters Without Borders today called on French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin and British defence minister Geoff Hoon to make a joint investigation into the disappearance in southern Iraq on 22 March of French cameraman Fred Nérac and Lebanese interpreter Hussein Osman, both of the British Independent Television News (ITN).

"Reporters Without Borders welcomes the decision, even though it has come late, by the British defence ministry to open a criminal enquiry into their disappearance," said the organisation’s secretary-general, Robert Ménard in a letter to the two ministers. "Nérac is not only French but a citizen of the European Union. As Britain and France work to build that union, it is both legitimate and desirable to have a joint investigation by Britain, which controls southern Iraq, and by France as part of its obligations to French citizens around the world.

"France must demand that its investigators be allowed to work in Iraq, in full cooperation with British colleagues and Britain should not refuse this extra help in the enquiry," Ménard said.

Reporters Without Borders firmly supports the request of Nérac’s wife Fabienne for such a joint enquiry, made to the French government on 28 May, the day the British investigation was announced.

Earlier, on 9 May, Hoon had told ITN he could not start an enquiry without proof that a war crime had been committed. ITN, which is making its own investigation in Iraq, has repeatedly asked for help from the British government and for an official enquiry. The US authorities told ITN unofficially on 28 April they would open a military enquiry themselves.

The two men were part of a four-member ITN team caught in firing between US Marines and Iraqi forces as they drove towards Basra. Reporter Terry Lloyd was killed and Belgian cameraman Daniel Demoustier was injured. Nérac and Osman disappeared.

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