UN expert denounces South Sudan's inaction over journalist killing

UN expert denounces South Sudan's inaction over journalist killing
Journalist Christopher Allen was killed by armed forces three years ago, and the government’s failure to provide a 'proper investigation' into his death sets a dangerous precedent,
2 min read
26 August, 2020
Callamard asked the South Sudanese government to carry out a "proper investigation." [Getty]

The lack of an investigation by the South Sudan government into the killing of a journalist indicates a worrying "climate of hostility" towards media workers reporting in the country, UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard said on Tuesday.

Freelance journalist Christopher Allen was killed by armed forces three years ago today and the government had failed to provide a "proper investigation" into his death.

This "sends a very dangerous signal" that journalists in the country can be targeted without consequences, Callamard said.

"Three years is too long to leave a bereaved family without answers," she stated in a news release on Tuesday.

"Investigation into crimes committed against journalists - not only in South Sudan, but around the world - is a key element in preventing future attacks and ending impunity."

Government officials allegedly justified his killing, calling him a "clandestine criminal" and a "rebel", according to the United Nations News website.

Allen was killed in August 2017 by a shot to the head, amid clashes between the South Sudanese army and members of the SPLA-IO rebel group. 

Images of the British-American citizen stripped naked surfaced online after his death but were removed by authorities.

Through her submission via the Human Rights Council, Callamard called on the South Sudanese government to confirm whether it has carried out an investigation.

If it fails to do so, she said the US' Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) should take matters into its own hands.

"The FBI has a duty, both legal and moral, to investigate Mr. Allen's killing because of well-founded suspicions that war crimes may have been committed by members of South Sudanese forces," said Callamard.

"The governments of South Sudan and the US can and must take steps to ensure that the circumstances of Mr. Allen's murder are fully, independently and fearlessly investigated. His family is still seeking answers about the circumstances of his death and accountability."

Other rights groups, such as Reporters Without Borders, have joined in the call for an independent investigation into Allen's death, calling on Washington to take action. 

At least ten media workers were killed during South Sudan's civil war with perpetrators benefiting from impunity.

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