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France

Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, two years later

media Claude Verlon and Ghislaine Dupont. RFI

On 2 November 2013, RFI special correspondents Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon were kidnapped and later murdered outside Kidal in Mali. Two years later on the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, the investigation has stalled.

Two years ago Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon were murdered in northern Mali as they were preparing a series of reports ahead of legislative elections. Several days later the Islamist group Aqmi, Al-Qaida in the Maghreb, claimed responsibility for the attack.

According to the NGO Reporters Without Borders, 718 journalists have been murdered in the last decade. The vast majority of these crimes have gone unpunished.

"The fight against impunity is essential," says the NGO's secretary-general, Christophe Deloire, "because more than 90 per cent of crimes committed against journalists remain unsolved."

Deloire says he believes the impunity incites perpetrators to commit these kinds of crimes. "In certain countries, they say they can always kill a journalist because in the end, there are no consequences."

Agnes Callamard of New York's Columbia University agrees. She says there has been very little progress made in the conviction of crimes against journalists worldwide.

Interview on impunity with Agnes Callamard of Columbia University 02/11/2015 - by RFI Listen

The murders of Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon remain amongst the world's most high-profile unsolved cases. Eighteen months after a judiciary investigation began, there are no concrete leads. Even the circumstances surrounding their deaths remain unclear.

Their families say they are beginning to lose hope. In June of this year, the French Ministry of Defence officially received a request submitted by prominent antiterrorist magistrate Marc Trévidic to declassify a series of secret defence documents related to the case. At the time French President Francois Hollande gave his assurances that justice would finally be served. Six months on, however, the contents of those defence files have yet to be disclosed.

In the meantime Marc Trévidic, who had been presiding over the case since its initial stages, has just been reassigned due to an existing French law.

Christophe Deltombe, one of the lawyers representing the victims's families in a civil suit, says the process of replacing Marc Trévidic is further slowing progress, despite the fact a new successor has been named.

"At first we were told Marc Trévidic's files would be dispatched among several new judges, so that his successor would not be bogged down by so much material. Now we're told that is no longer the case."

Deltombe says he also believes the French army knows more about the case than it is letting on. On top of this, ongoing tensions between Bamako and Kidal are continuing to hinder the investigation. Lawyers for the civil parties say several leads have never been properly followed, including intercepted telephone conversations, time gaps and the absence of physical traces in the sand where they were taken away.

For Reporters Without Borders the most effective way to combat violence against journalists would be to strengthen international law. Deloire is hoping the UN will create a new special representative of the secretary general to coordinate UN action.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution A/RES/68/163 at its 68th session in 2013 which proclaimed 2 November as the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists. The Resolution urged Member States to implement measures countering the present culture of impunity. The date was chosen to honour our RFI colleagues along with other journalists who have been the victims of such crimes.

 

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