South Sudan: Long overdue investigation into killing of journalist Christopher Allen is insufficient to deliver justice
The Republic of South Sudan has announced the formation of an investigation committee “with regards to the tragic death of the journalist Christopher Allen.” After six years of sustained advocacy, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) welcomes an investigation but urges the South Sudanese authorities to conduct an investigation that is robust, independent, and transparent, in line with international standards, and that ultimately delivers justice to Allen’s family.
Christopher Allen, a dual American-British citizen and freelance journalist, 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.
RSF urges South Sudan’s government to furnish the committee with every resource needed, including sufficient time to mount a credible investigation. Given Allen’s US citizenship, the US government should also offer South Sudan its own technical assistance.
While the South Sudanese government accepting responsibility to conduct an investigation is a welcome development, RSF is deeply concerned by the fact that the investigative committee’s mandate is set to last only 15 days – starting on September 29, although the announcement was not made public until October 2. Such a short timeline would render a meaningful investigation impossible.
RSF is also concerned regarding the committee’s ability to remain impartial. The announcement of the investigation was signed by Martin Elia Lomuro, a minister who is sanctioned by the American government for allegedly “expanding or extending the conflict in South Sudan or obstructing reconciliation or peace talks or processes.” Other members of the committee are strongly linked to South Sudanese army leadership.
“This long-overdue announcement of an investigation is among the most significant developments in the more than six years that RSF has been campaigning for justice for Christopher Allen, but the fight for justice is clearly far from over. We will closely scrutinize this process and continue to demand an investigation that is genuinely thorough and transparent, with an outcome of those responsible for the murder being brought to full criminal justice. Christopher and his family deserve nothing less.
Allen’s parents, Joyce Krajian and John Allen, also support this demand for transparency and told RSF: “For six years we’ve been on the receiving end of disrespect, smears, and outright lies about our son. We hope the leaders of South Sudan will take this opportunity to finally do the right thing by delivering justice for Chris, and not use this investigation to wipe their hands clean of his murder.”
RSF has worked with Allen’s family for the past six years on a global campaign for justice for his killing, repeatedly calling on the government of South Sudan to launch an investigation and seek justice. This campaign has repeatedly raised the case with both of Allen’s governments – the UK and US – including with high level officials at the White House, Department of Justice, and Department of State in both the Trump and Biden administrations. RSF welcomes recent joint statements made by the embassies of the US and UK in South Sudan calling for a credible investigation into Allen’s death.
South Sudan ranks 118th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2023 World Press Freedom Index.