Mali: “The murder of Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon must not go unpunished”

Press release
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“The murder of Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon is a despicable act that must not go unpunished”, declared nine human rights defence organisations, members of FIDH in the Sahel.

The NGOs demand that the personal integrity of journalists, humanitarian workers, and human rights defenders working in areas of conflict be strictily respected. They also highlight the fact that at least 60 journalists throughout the world have been killed in 2013 while doing their job.

On Saturday, 2 November 2013 around 1:30 p.m., Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, two journalists working for Radio France Internationale (RFI), were kidnapped in Kidal, in northern Mali by a group of armed men. They were taken 12 kilometres to the east of the city, on the Tin-Essako road, and were then shot and killed. They were leaving the home of Ambery Ag Ghissa, one of the leaders of the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (NMLA), whom they had just interviewed. According to statements made by Ambery Ag Ghissa and the journalists’ driver, several armed men, who spoke Tamachek – the language of the Tuaregs – grabbed the two French journalists as they were leaving the house and forced them to come with them. Their bodies were found about an hour later by a patrol of the French army’s Operation Serval that had been informed of the kidnapping and was searching for them.

« The murder of Ghislaine and Claude is a despicable and cowardly act that has profoundly shocked and outraged us. They were both friends of FIDH, as well as the human rights defenders they often interviewed and with whom we often got together, sometimes in the field. We pay tribute to their professionalism, their devotion, and their courage. Now the murderers must be found and judged. We must no longer kill with impunity in Mali, » said Karim Lahidji, FIDH President.

We join their families, their friends at RFI, and the entire profession in sorrow and mourning. Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon were both great professionals, profoundly humane, and committed to their job, to Africa which they loved passionately and, of course, to RFI. The last time our teams met in the field was in Kidal in July 2013 where Ghislaine and Claude covered the presidential elections at the same time as an FIDH-AMDH investigation was underway.

Those responsible for their murders must be found and prosecuted so that the impunity which has been so prevalent in Mali during the last few years does not become acceptable again. On 2 November 2013, the office of the Public Prosecutor of Paris opened an investigation on charges of kidnapping and confinement followed by murder in connection with a terrorist undertaking. The investigation, carried out under the authority of the Office of the Public Prosecutor of Paris, has been entrusted to the Central Directorate of Domestic Intelligence (DCRI) and the Anti-Terrorist SubDirectorate (SDAT). On 3 November 2013, Mahamane Baby, spokesman of the Malian Government, reported that a judiciary inquiry would be opened in Mali.

At least 60 journalists have already been killed in 2013 throughout the world. The murder of Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon reminds us, in the most painful way, that strict respect for the personal integrity of journalists, as well as humanitarian aid workers and human rights defenders is a fight that is harder than ever. Our organisations hereby remind States of their responsibility to protect journalists. We also remind the belligerents and the armed groups in all conflicts of their responsibility to respect the Geneva Convention and international humanitarian law, as well as to respect the physical integrity, the work, and the neutrality of journalists and other non-combatant actors in places of conflicts.

Malian Association for Human Rights (AMDH)
Nigerien Association for the Defence of Human Rights (ANDDH)
Burkina Faso Movement for Human and Peoples’ Rights (MBDHP)
Chadian League of Human Rights (LTDH)
Chadian Association for the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights (ATPDH)
Mauritanian Association for Human Rights (AMDH)
Lotus Group (GL)
League of Voters (LE)

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