Reporters Without Borders called on the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission to investigate the US-British coalition forces bombing of the Iraqi state TV headquarters in Baghdad as a possible violation of international humanitarian law.
Reporters Without Borders called today on the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission to investigate the US-British coalition forces bombing of the Iraqi state TV headquarters in Baghdad as a possible violation of international humanitarian law. It is the first time in its existence that the Commission is being petitioned. Set up in 1991 under the First Additional Protocol of the Geneva Conventions, it has the job of investigating any alleged serious violation of international humanitarian law. "A media outlet cannot be a military target under international law and its equipment and installations are civilian property protected as such under the Geneva Conventions," said Reporters Without Border secretary-general Robert Ménard. "Only an objective and impartial enquiry can determine whether or not the Conventions have been violated." To have jurisdiction, the Commission has to be petitioned by one of the parties in a conflict or by one of the countries that have recognised its jurisdiction. To conduct an investigation, all the belligerents must accept its authority. Among the countries involved in the Iraq war, only Australia and the United Kingdom have formally recognised it, allowing an investigation to go ahead as far as they are concerned. The United States and Iraq have not yet accepted the principle of such an enquiry. Reporters Without Borders called on the Commission, which is based in Berne (Switzerland), to seek consent from all the belligerents to investigate the bombing of the Iraqi TV headquarters and the Iraqi information ministry building. The TV headquarters were badly damaged by US-British coalition forces bombing on the evening of 25 March and the station's broadcasts cut off. Programmes resumed the next morning. The building also housed the Youth TV station, run by President Saddam Hussein's eldest son Uday. A missile hit the information ministry at dawn on 29 March and damaged the "tent city" built by the international media on the roof of a nearby building. Nobody was hurt but the press centre on the ground floor of the ministry was badly damaged, with windows blown out and computers and other equipment strewn on the ground. The ministry was again bombed by coalition forces on the night of 30-31 March and the government TV station again went off the air, this time for more than 10 hours. Satellite dishes used by the station were on top of the building and offices, studios and transmission antenna were just next door. Coalition spokesmen said on 25 March that the attack on the TV building was a bid to knock out President Hussein's means of communication with the Iraqi people and army. They mentioned the film the station was showing of US prisoners of war and bloody corpses said to be those of US soldiers. These coalition statements show that the Iraqi national TV was deliberately attacked.