Government rejects plan to make killing a journalist a specific war crime

A demand for the killing of journalists in war zones to be made a specific war crime has been rejected by the Government.

Foreign Office minister Lord Triesman has told politicians pressing for the new law that highlighting journalists would be unfair to aid workers similarly at risk.

The continued danger of journalists covering wars, which has led to the death of ITN's Terry Lloyd (pictured) and the kidnapping of the BBC's Alan Johnston has aroused concern among MPs and peers in all parties, and sparked demands for the Government to act.

In the Lords, Labour peer Lord Faulkner of Worcester called for an amendment to the 1995 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, making the killing of journalists in war zones a crime under international law.

But Lord Triesman told him that this would risk "marginalising the role of others".

"Humanitarian and NGO workers do desperately vital work in war zones. There is no reason why they should not be afforded the full protection of international law as well."

Lord Triesman insisted journalists' deaths were already a war crime.

"Under relevant existing provisions of the Rome Statute and the additional protocol 1 to the Geneva Conventions, journalists are regarded as civilians.

"To direct intentionally an attack against civilians not taking part in hostilities is currently a war crime. Therefore, it is our view that no amendment to international law is necessary."

Lord Faulkner retorted by pointing out that ITN's Terry Lloyd was "shot by a US marine while in the back of an ambulance moving away from the battle zone" four years ago in Iraq.

"Despite a verdict of unlawful killing by the Oxfordshire coroner, there has still been no indication that the US is prepared to make the person responsible available to stand trial."

More than 40 MPs have backed Liberal Democrat shadow media secretary Don Foster to help resolve the unlawful killing of ITN's Terry Lloyd, and to press for the reopening of the UN investigations into the killings of journalists in East Timor, including British citizens Malcolm Rennie and Brian Peters in 1975 and Sander Thoenes of the Financial Times in 1999.

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