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Family of journalist slain in South Sudan push for investigation two years on

South Sudan journalist

A British-American journalist killed in South Sudan two years ago has been remembered at vigils outside the country’s embassies in London and Washington DC amid calls for an investigation into his death.

Christopher Allen was 26 when he was killed while reporting on South Sudan’s civil war as fighting broke out between Government and opposition forces during a rebel offensive on 26 August 2017.

Press freedom groups have claimed that there is evidence suggesting Allen was deliberately targeted for taking photographs of the battle.

The freelance’s family were joined by campaign groups and members of the media at the vigils, held on the two-year anniversary of his death on Monday, with signs calling for justice for Allen.

Allen’s family have pushed for South Sudanese authorities to open an impartial investigation into the killing and for the US to step in if it continues to fail in its duties under international law.

They met with the country’s US ambassador, Phillip Jada Natana, according to Reporters without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontieres) who said the ambassador “agreed to engage on this issue and push forward an investigation” into Allen’s death.

Lawyers for the family have told Associated Press there are “reasonable grounds to suspect that both the killing of Christopher Allen and the treatment of his body after death constitute war crimes committed by members of the South Sudanese armed forces”.

Speaking to Press Gazette on behalf of Allen’s family, Jeremy Bliss described his cousin as a “real truth seeker”. He also called for the UK and IS governments to ensure an investigation into Allen’s death takes place.

“It’s appearing there’s evidence that there were crimes committed,” he said. “And of course we can’t be sure of that until an investigation is undertaken and then any necessary prosecutions to follow, but that now needs to happen.”

Bliss said the response from UK and US authorities so far had been “very disappointing”, adding: “We’re being maintained at a very low level with the State Department and with the Foreign Office.”

He claimed there had “never been any real determination from either party to actually push for any sort of investigation”.

RSF UK bureau director Rebecca Vincent said in a statement at the vigils that two years was “far too long for Chris Allen’s family to be left lacking even the most basic answers about what happened”.

She added it was “also far too long for this shameful lack of support from the UK and US governments to have continued.

“Today we gather not only to remember Chris and to renew calls for justice, but also to demand an end to this inaction by the very institutions that are meant to provide support and help achieve accountability for this heinous crime.”

Press freedom groups the Committee to Protect Journalists and Index on Censorship also supported the vigils for Allen.

The Foreign Office has yet to respond to a request for comment.

It held its inaugural Defend Media Freedom conference in London earlier this year.

Jointly hosted by the UK and Canadian Governments, the event featured a talk from human rights lawyer and UK special envoy on media freedom Amal Clooney.

Clooney, wife of Hollywood star George, was also appointed co-chairman of a panel of legal experts tasked with looking at “draconian” anti-press laws abroad.

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