South Sudan: Failed investigation perpetuates impunity for the killing of journalist Christopher Allen

In presenting the findings of its long overdue investigation into the 2017 killing of US-UK journalist Christopher Allen, the government of South Sudan has demonstrated a clear failure to conduct a credible investigation and has further obstructed the path to justice. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns this botched effort and highlights the urgent need for a credible investigation without delay.

On March 20, the Republic of South Sudan’s Ministry of Cabinet Affairs announced the conclusion of its investigation into the death of freelance journalist Christopher Allen, a dual US-UK national who was killed while covering the civil war in South Sudan in August 2017. However, RSF has reviewed the Investigative Committee’s report and concludes that the investigation was wholly inadequate, failing to answer basic questions about Allen’s killing, drawing conclusions that contradict tangible evidence, and neglecting to inform or involve Allen’s family in any way.

Speaking out for the first time since the publication of the report, Allen’s parents, Joyce Krajian and John Allen told RSF: “We are appalled at the lack of credibility of the recently published report on the investigation of the killing of our son. We were neither notified of the investigation nor provided a copy of the report. The US Ambassador in Juba had to search for the report online. We have waited for six and a half years for this report of a sham investigation. This is reprehensible. International war crimes have been committed. Chris deserves more. We deserve more. Journalists globally deserve more. A government should always be held accountable for its actions. We continue to call for a transparent and credible investigation into the death of our son.”

RSF had previously noted several key issues that compromised the credibility of South Sudan’s investigation before it even began, including its composition, ad hoc nature, and limited mandate. Since then, the Investigative Committee has done nothing to dispel those concerns. 

The investigators at no time contacted Allen’s family. Nor did they access the autopsy report independently commissioned by the family, which directly contradicts the Investigative Committee’s claim that Allen was killed in crossfire. The report failed to mention the degrading treatment of Allen’s body following his death, which the family’s legal representation has argued constitutes a war crime. Finally, the Committee’s repeated accusations that Allen was in South Sudan “illegally” smack of justification for his killing despite their immateriality

“We were worried that this investigation would prove to be a sham and our fears have been borne out. With South Sudan either unable or unwilling to mount a credible investigation into Christopher Allen’s killing, it falls squarely on the US government to do everything in its power to deliver justice and accountability to Allen’s family. We call again on the US to conduct its own credible investigation, and ensure that American journalists cannot be killed with impunity in doing their jobs abroad.

Clayton Weimers
Executive Director, RSF USA

Allen was repeatedly shot while covering a clash in Kaya, near South Sudan’s border with Uganda, on August 26, 2017, after having been embedded with rebel forces for three weeks. He was carrying only a camera and was 26 years old at the time of his killing. Available information demonstrates that war crimes were committed in the deliberate targeting of Allen and the treatment of his body after his death, including trophy-style photos.

Having worked to support Allen’s family over the past six years in a global campaign for justice for his killing, RSF has persistently raised the case with both of Allen’s governments – the US and UK – including with high level officials at the White House, Department of Justice, and Department of State in both the Trump and Biden administrations, as well as at the United Nations.

For its part, the US State Department has also rejected the conclusions of South Sudan’s investigation, stating on April 2: “The subsequently released report does not address in a comprehensive manner all the factors that led to Mr. Allen’s death or the disrespectful treatment of his remains. We renew our call on the transitional government to conduct a credible investigation into Mr. Allen’s death and to demonstrate the political will to take accountability seriously.”

South Sudan is ranked 118th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2023 World Press Freedom Index.

136/ 180
Score : 42.57
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