France urged to complete judicial probe into Marie Colvin and Rémi Ochlik’s deaths in Syria ten years ago

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the French judicial authorities to complete their war crimes investigation into the Syrian army’s shelling of a media centre in the city of Homs exactly ten years ago, in which French photographer Rémi Ochlik was killed, along with US reporter Marie Colvin, and a French reporter was injured. The French authorities have yet to bring any charges.

“She worked with the terrorists, and because she came illegally, she's been responsible of everything that befall on her [sic]” – this was Syrian President Bashar al-Assad sharp comment in an interview in English for NBC in 2016, when asked about Colvin’s death in the artillery bombardment on 22 February 2012.

RSF registered as an interested civil party when, in March 2012, the French judicial authorities opened an investigation into the “murder” of Ochlik and “attempted murder” of Edith Bouvier, the French reporter who was injured. They redefined it as a “war crimes” case two years later and transferred it to the Paris court’s unit for crimes against humanity.

At the time, RSF said the Syrian regime had “decided to punish the entire population collectively and to use the most violent means to silence those journalists who witness its excesses.”

“After ten years of impunity for these shocking and high-profile crimes, the main instigators must finally be prosecuted,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “This investigation must reach a swift and concrete conclusion. We expect charges and arrest warrants, and for justice to be finally rendered.”

Colvin, Ochlik and other foreign reporters had gone to the western city of Homs to cover the siege that Assad’s forces had launched in January 2012. After spending the night of 21 February in a building serving as a media centre in the district of Bab Amr, they were awakened the next morning when the Syrian army began shelling the building. Colvin and Ochlik tried to flee but were killed at the building’s entrance.

Several other journalists were injured in the shelling of the media centre. They included Bouvier, a freelancer working for the French daily Le Figaro, who sustained a serious leg injury, British photographer Paul Conroy and Syrian translator Wael Al-Omar. Shaam News Network reporter Ramy Al-Sayed had been killed by a shell in his car the previous afternoon.

According to a report by the Syrian Centre for Media (SCM), an RSF partner, Syria’s civil war caused the deaths of more 700 journalists from 2011 to 2021.

Syria is ranked 173rd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 21.02.2022