Ghislaine Dupont, a reporter for Radio France Internationale, and Claude Verlon, an RFI technician, were gunned down in the desert a few kilometres outside the northern city of Kidal on 2 November 2013. Their deaths were claimed by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
Aside from some enquiries in the field by the French gendarmerie immediately after the double murder, no in-depth investigation has been carried out by either the Malian or French judicial authorities.
Under Operation Barkhane, French forces have been conducting anti-Jihadi operations in the region together with the Malian army since January 2013. So the failure to conduct a field investigation cannot be justified on security grounds.
“Two and a half years after this double murder, RSF and the Association of Friends of Ghislaine Dupont call on French President François Hollande and Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to take concrete steps to ensure that those responsible are identified, arrested and tried,” said Cléa Kahn-Sriber, the head of RSF’s Africa desk.
“This situation of impunity must be ended, not only for the families of the victims but also, more broadly, to send a clear message that violence against journalists will not go unpunished. The security situation in northern Mali does not excuse all the delays in the investigation. We have every right to question whether the Malian and French authorities really want to ever bring it to a conclusion.”
The members of the Association of Friends of Ghislaine Dupont make no bones about their anger and frustration.
“The French and Malian presidents have been promising since 2013 that everything will be done to ensure that the murders are identified, arrested and brought to trial,” said Christophe Boisbouvier, an RFI journalist and member of the association.
“Politically and mediawise, they said all the right things. But the gulf between words and action is all too evident. You have the impression that in reality this is not a priority for either Paris or Bamako and that they would like to move on to something else.”
In May 2015, Marc Trévidic, the French anti-terrorism judge then in charge of the French investigation, asked the French defence ministry to declassify all the “confidential defence” evidence relating to their deaths.
After a moving open letter from Dupont’s mother, Hollande received the Dupont and Verlon families at the Elysée Palace in July 2015 and promised that all the evidence would be declassified and that the murderers would be arrested and tried.
Eight months later, in March 2016, only a few pieces of evidence were made available. Reliable sources say that they were poorly chosen and partially redacted, and that they do not help the investigation. A new investigating judge, Jean-Marc Herbaut, was put in charge of the French investigation in September. He has not yet received the victims’ families.
Mali is ranked 122nd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index. France is ranked 45th.