Death of Franco-Irish journalist Pierre Zakrzewski at the start of the war in Ukraine: his family and RSF welcome the opening of a judicial investigation for war crimes in France

On 17 April 2024, the National Anti-Terrorist Prosecutor's Office (PNAT) announced the opening of a judicial investigation into the death of the French Irish journalist for the American media FoxNews, Pierre Zakrzewski, killed on 14 March 2022 in Ukraine while covering the beginning of the Russian invasion. The journalist's family and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) welcome this judicial step forward and will file civil party applications in the judicial investigation.

The French-Irish journalist of the American media FoxNews, Pierre Zakrzewski, was killed in Ukraine on 14 March 2022 while covering the beginning of the Russian invasion. After more than two years of investigation into the circumstances of his death in Horenka near the Ukrainian capital, two investigating judges have just been appointed. This is a significant step forward in the fight against impunity for crimes committed against journalists. 

In Michelle Ross-Stanton’s words, Pierre’s wife “Pierre used his lens to ensure people's stories were told with clarity and truth, no matter how difficult or how dangerous. ⁠We are very grateful to all those who have supported and helped us in our continuing fight to uncover the truth regarding what happened to Pierre.” Marie-Ange Zakrzewska also wants to remember her son as the gifted storyteller he was: “His free spirit, his great empathy and his boundless energy made him an easy companion and a wonderful source of positivity to everyone he met.”

Two days after this tragedy, on 16 March 2022, a preliminary investigation was launched by the PNAT, in which 17 members of the family and RSF took part. A joint investigation team has been set up between France, Ireland and Ukraine. At the end of this preliminary phase, on 5 April 2024, the PNAT referred the case to the Dean of the Investigating Judges of the Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes Unit of the Paris Judicial Court requesting the opening of a judicial investigation for war crimes.

The lawyers for Pierre Zakrzewski's family, Clémence Witt and Anaïs Sarron, welcome the start of this second phase: "Judicial cooperation worked extremely well during the preliminary investigation opened by the specialised section of the PNAT. This second phase, the appointment of investigating judges will allow his relatives to become civil parties and to participate more actively in the ongoing investigations."

RSF will apply to become a civil party alongside Pierre Zakrzewski's family. The organisation’s lawyer, Emmanuel Daoud, also welcomes this decisive step: "It is thus demonstrated that when international judicial cooperation on the ground is effective, the capacity of the French justice system to move forward quickly given the context of war makes it possible to fight effectively against impunity."

"The opening of a judicial investigation in France means that the noose is tightening on individuals suspected of being the perpetrators or instigators of the shootings that targeted the FoxNews crew and claimed the lives of Pierre Zakrzewski and his Ukrainian colleague Oleksandra Kuvchinova, and seriously injured American journalist Benjamin Hall. RSF will remain mobilised to ensure that the investigation progresses quickly and effectively.

Antoine Bernard
RSF’s advocacy and assistance director

Pierre Zakrzewski, a 55-year-old veteran journalist, was no stranger to covering conflicts. During his thirty years in the field, the former London-based war cameraman has notably been to Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. His relatives are organising an itinerant photo exhibition about his life and achievements, which will travel between Dublin, London and Paris this autumn. It will be a way to raise funds for the protection of journalists around the world.

Oleksandra Kuvchinova, a young journalist known for her courage and professionalism, had been working as a fixer for Fox News for almost a month at the time of the incident. She is one of 11 media professionals killed in Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion on 24 February 2022. She is the only fixer. RSF's documentary Fixers in wartime, the invisible reporters, which recounts the valuable work of these collaborators, is dedicated to her.

At least 100 Ukrainian and international journalists have been victims of abuses by the Russian armed forces since 24 February 2022. RSF filed eight complaints of war crimes simultaneously with Ukraine's prosecutor general and the International Criminal Court (ICC), as well as two complaints with the French courts.

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