Foreign Policy Blogs

War Crimes Charges Sought in Journalists Deaths.

War Crimes Charges Sought in Journalists Deaths.An Australian coroner has been told by an Australian inquiry to refer two individuals for war crimes prosecution for the murder of five Australian journalists during the invasion of East Timor in 1975. The so-called "Balibo five" were allegedly killed while attempting to surrender to Indonesian troops. According to witness testimony supplied by senior lawyers in the case, one man was stabbed to death and the others were shot on order from an Indonesian military captain. It is suspected the journalists were killed to prevent them reporting on Indonesian military actions. The allegations are denied by both the Australian and Indonesian governments.

Indonesia invaded East Timor on December 7, 1975 in an attempted annexation with the military and political support of the United States and Australia.

Journalists are protected under the Geneva Conventions. According to the 1949 Conventions, journalists were treated according to provisions afforded to normal combatants, however, the 1977 Conventions reclassify journalists as civilians. Civilians , and journalists – "shall not be the object of attack. Acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population are prohibited" provided they do not partake in hostilities and are able to differentiate themselves from military personnel.

The current conflict regarding international militias that are not affiliated with the armed forces of a state has resulted in some of the worst atrocities committed against war correspondents in over a quarter century. According to the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, at least 177 journalists have been killed in the current conflict in Iraq. Nine have been killed in Iraq during the month of May, including Ali Khalil. Khalil, 21, was reporting for one of Iraq's most popular newspapers, Azzaman.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged architect of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on The United States, has confessed to beheading Wall Street Journal reporter, Daniel Pearl, on February 1, 2002. Mr. Pearl was investigating the shoe bomber, Richard Reid, in Karachi, Pakistan.

Alan Johnston, the BBC correspondent in Palestine, was kidnapped by members of the al-Tawhid al-Jihad Brigade in Gaza City. Mr. Johnston was abducted on March 12 and remains in captivity.

According to the Geneva Conventions, guerilla forces are to honor the protections enjoyed by all civilians in combat zones.

UPDATE: GAZA (Reuters) – Kidnapped BBC Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston said he was in good health and being treated well in a video released on Friday, the first since militants abducted him in the Palestinian enclave over 11 weeks ago.



Daniel Graeber

Daniel Graeber is a writer for United Press International covering Iraq, Afghanistan and the broader Levant. He has published works on international and constitutional law pertaining to US terrorism cases and on child soldiers. His first major work, entitled The United States and Israel: The Implications of Alignment, is featured in the text, Strategic Interests in the Middle East: Opposition or Support for US Foreign Policy. He holds a MA in Diplomacy and International Conflict Management from Norwich University, where his focus was international relations theory, international law, and the role of non-state actors.

Areas of Focus:International law; Middle East; Government and Politics; non-state actors