Calls for joint inquiry into missing ITN pair

Press freedom group Reporters Without Borders has called for a joint Anglo-French investigation into the disappearance of ITN cameraman Fred Nerac and interpreter Hussein Osman.

They were part of the four-strong ITN team whose vehicle was caught in firing between US marines and Iraqi forces as they drove towards Basra on 22 March. Reporter Terry Lloyd was killed and Belgian cameraman Daniel Demoustier was wounded. Nerac, who is French, and Osman, who comes from Lebanon, vanished.

A US military inquiry into the incident is under way, and last week Britain’s Military Police launched an investigation into the two men’s disappearance. This is expected to take several weeks.

On the day the British inquiry was announced, Nerac’s wife Fabienne urged the French authorities to hold a joint inquiry.

She has been backed by Robert MŽnard, RWB general secretary, who has written to the Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon and his French counterpart, Dominique de Villepin, welcoming the British inquiry, but calling for French involvement in the investigations.

He said: “Nerac is not only French but a citizen of the European Union. As Britain and France work to build that union, it is both legitimate and desirable to have a joint investigation by Britain, which controls southern Iraq, and by France as part of its obligations to French citizens around the world. France must demand that its investigators be allowed to work in Iraq, in full co-operation with British colleagues, and Britain should not refuse this extra help in the inquiry.”

On 9 May, Hoon told ITN he could not start an inquiry without proof that a war crime had been committed. Last week he said fresh evidence had come to light suggesting the pair may have been the victims of Iraqi war crimes.

By Jon Slattery

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