Hostage taking is a war crime, says Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch has classed hostage-taking as a war crime, following the kidnapping of two French journalists by an Iraqi insurgent group.

Murdered: Italian Enzo Baldoni is the 51st journalist to die in Iraq

The Islamic group has threatened to kill Radio France Internationale correspondent Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot of Le Figaro unless the French government retracts the new law banning religious symbols in state schools, such as headscarves worn by Muslim girls.

Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of HRW’s Middle East and North Africa division, said: “International law prohibits the fundamental crimes that every religion and culture also condemn.

“Taking hostages for purposes of political extortion, or any other purpose, constitutes the most serious kind of crime.”

“No cause justifies the resort to such horrendous methods of blackmail.

Hostage-taking negates victims’ most fundamental human rights.”

A deadline for the journalists was originally set for Tuesday night but the abductors extended it again by 24 hours taking it to Wednesday night.

The French school year began on Thursday this week.

Reporters Without Borders have called for the Arabic News Media to spell out the France’s Islamic veil law to the abductors – that the only ban is in schools owned by the state.

The International Federation of Journalists has also shown its support for the journalists and reflected on the killing of Italian journalist Enzo Baldoni, who was kidnapped and executed after trying to force the Italian government to withdraw its troops from Iraq.

Aidan White, IFJ general secretary said: “We have already lost one courageous colleague. We must have an end to this.”

By Sarah Lagan

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