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"Journalists increasingly are being targeted in conflict largely because they have lost, in the eyes of certain elements, their status as neutral observers, INSI Director Rodney Pinder said. "If they bear arms they reinforce this misguided belief by placing themselves on one side or another. A journalist with a gun says some people in the situation I'm covering are my enemies and I am prepared to kill them if necessary. That is not the position of a neutral civilian."Although it's easy to understand why in Iraq would want to carry arms in self-defense -- after all, 104 journalists and support staff have been killed there since the war began, the greatest media toll in modern times -- INSI's position seems pragmatically sound. Still, I question whether journalists would, in fact, forfeit the protection of the Geneva Conventions by carrying weapons, particularly if they only carried small arms and kept them concealed. Article 79 of Protocol I specifically provides that
Pinder also said that armed journalists would lose even the protection--"flimsy though it is"--afforded civilians in war by the Geneva Conventions. INSI said the 1977 Additional Protocol to the conventions demands that working journalists in conflict areas must be considered civilians, "provided they take no action adversely affecting their status as civilians."
"INSI and other organizations concerned with the safety of journalists in conflict believe that the bearing of arms would amount to that action," the group said.
[j]ournalists engaged in dangerous professional missions in areas of armed conflict shall be considered as civilians... and shall be protected as such under the Conventions and this Protocol, provided that they take no action adversely affecting their status as civilians. The question, then, is whether a civilian who carries a weapon in self-defense would be taking an "action adversely affecting their status as civilians." The answer appears to be "no." Under Article 13 of Protocol II, which elaborates and strengthens common Article 3's basic rules, "[c]ivilians shall enjoy the protection afford by this Part, unless and for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities." Carrying a weapon in self-defense would not qualify as taking a "direct part" in hostilities. As the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has pointed out:
It is generally understood in humanitarian law that the phrase "direct participation in hostilities" means acts which, by their nature or purpose, are intended to cause actual harm to enemy personnel and material. Such participation also suggests a "direct causal relationship between the activity engaged in and harm done to the enemy at the time and place where the activity takes place."This interpretation of common Article 3 and Protocol II is supported by Protocol I's treatment of individuals engaged in civil defense -- humanitarian tasks (medical treatment, firefighting, etc.) designed to protect civilians against the effects of hostilities. Article 65 of Protocol I specifically provides:
It shall also not be considered as an act harmful to the enemy that civilian defence personnel bear light individual weapons for the purpose of maintaining order or for self-defence. However, in areas where land fighting it taking place or is likely to take place, the Parties to the conflict shall undertake the appropriate measures to limit these weapons to handguns, such as pistols or revolvers, in order to assist in distinguishing between civil defence personnel and combatants. Although civil defence personnel bear other light individual weapons in such areas, they shall nevertheless be respected and protected as soon as they have been recognized as such.Moreover, even if a journalist crossed the line between self-defense and acts harmful to the enemy, they would still not be subject to immediate attack by Iraqi insurgents or the military (Iraqi or US). According to paragraph 1 of Article 65:
The protection to which civilian civil defence organizations, their personnel, buildings, shelters and materiel are entitled shall not cease unless they commit or are used to commit, outside their proper tasks, acts harmful to the enemy. Protection may, however, cease only after a warning has been given setting, whenever appropriate, a reasonable time-limit, and after such warning has remained unheeded.Again, I am not suggesting that journalists in
Comments by readers with greater expertise in the Conventions would be most appreciated.
Since its creation in July 2002, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has received 1,732 pieces of communication about crimes committed in 139 countries.
According to the second summary published by the office of the prosecutor on February 10, 60% of the information came from individuals or groups in four countries: the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany. 80% of the claims were found to be manifestly outside [the court's] jurisdiction and were dismissed after initial review. The cases that received intensive analysis were categorized into 23 "situations". Ten were chosen, six rejected and seven are still under study. Of the 10 cases selected, 3 are currently being investigated (Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Sudan), 5 are being analyzed (Central African Republic, Côte-d'Ivoire, and three others that remain confidential), and 2 were dismissed (Iraq and Venezuela). The prosecutor has publicly stated his reasons for rejecting the latter two. In Iraq, the alleged war crimes were not sufficiently severe. In the case of Venezuela, he was unable to determine whether the alleged crimes against humanity had been committed "as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population."
The suit was filed by an group of local Ijaws after Shell ignored an order from the Nigerian senate to pay the money to the impoverished Ijaw community. Shell, which made a net profit in 2005 of $22.94 billion -- the highest full-year profit in British corporate history -- has appealed "on, among other grounds, the strength of independent expert advice, which demonstrates that there is no evidence to support the claims of the group." The company contends that the environmental damage was caused by sabotage of its oil refineries, relieving it of legal responsibility for the damage.
Local residents began to experience health problems soon after Shell Oil company injected a million litres of a waste into an abandoned oil well in Erovie two years ago. Many who consumed crops or drank water from swamps in the area complained of vomiting, dizziness, stomach ache and cough. Within two months 93 people had died from this mysterious illness. Independent tests by two Nigerian universities and three other laboratories, conducted in the year after the health problems emerged, indicate that the substance was toxic. All the tests confirmed poisonous concentrations of lead, zinc and mercury in the dumped substance.
"The presence of heavy metals at above acceptable limits and the unusually high concentration of ions make the substance toxic. Therefore, if these substances were to infiltrate the underground water or aquifer, it would have serious environmental and health implications," says one of the reports.
The draft report's authors write: "The authoritarian attitude with which the Mexican state wished to control social dissent created a spiral of violence which... led it to commit crimes against humanity, including genocide."
They say they base their findings partly on declassified military, police and interior ministry documents and list for the first time the names of officers allegedly involved in the abuses.The report says that units detained or summarily executed men and boys in villages suspected of links to rebel leader Lucio Cabanas.
Detainees were forced to drink gasoline and tortured with beatings and electric shocks, it says.
Bodies of dozens of leftists were dumped in the Pacific Ocean during helicopter "death flights" from military bases in Acapulco and elsewhere.
President Fox established an office in 2002 to probe possible human rights violations under Presidents Diaz Ordaz (1964-70), Echeverria (1970-76) and Lopez Portillo (1976-82). The office presented the report last December to the special prosecutor investigating past abuses, Ignacio Carrillo Prieto, but he refused to release it, saying that it places too much blame on the military and understates the abuses committed by the rebels. He says a revised version will be published soon.
Human-rights groups in Mexico have criticized Carillo's refusal to make the report public. That criticism certainly has merit, but Carillo has taken his job seriously, doggedly pursuing charges againt Echeverria for his involvement in the worst abuses of the Dirty War. Carrillo initially brought charges against Echeverria for ordering the Falcons, a paramilitary force allegedly created by his political party, to massacre students in June, 1971 -- an event known as the "Corpus Christi massacre." Those charges were thrown out by the Mexican Supreme Court, which held that the 30-year statute of limitations for the charges had expired.
Carrillo then charged Echeverria with genocide -- a crime not subject to the 30-year limit -- in connection with an earlier massacre of students in 1968, days before the Olympic Games opened in Mexico City. As many as 300 people might have died when government agents hidden among regular soldiers opened fire on the students. A judge dismissed the charge last September, ruling that the massacre could not amount to genocide. Carrillo has appealed the judge's decision.
The leaked report is available at the invaluable National Security Archive, here.