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Syria: ‘Beheading’ of US reporter a war crime that highlights ‘chilling’ risk to journalists

20th August 2014, 14:55:12 UTC

The apparent execution-style killing by the Islamic State (IS) armed group of a US reporter who went missing in Syria in 2012 constitutes a war crime and highlights the urgent need for all states with influence in the region to ensure other missing journalists are safely released, Amnesty International said today.

A video published online by the Islamic State (formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, ISIS) purports to show freelance reporter James Foley being beheaded, apparently in retaliation for US airstrikes against the IS in northern Iraq.

“This shocking video, if genuine, is devastating for the loved ones of James Foley and chilling for the family, friends and colleagues of those journalists who are still missing in Syria and northern Iraq, feared captured by IS militants,” said Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland.

“It is a war crime and both those who carried out the killing and those who ordered it must face justice.

“It is crucial that all warring countries and others with interests in the region use all diplomatic means possible to ensure that no more journalists – or others carrying out their legitimate work in the area – are killed for doing their job.”

The militants also claim to be holding another US journalist, Steven Sotloff, and state that his life depends on US President Barack Obama’s next move.

“The implication made in the video that journalists are being targeted in revenge for the US government’s involvement in Iraq is deeply alarming and increases fears that other hostages may be at heightened risk,” said Colm O’Gorman.

“Journalists, like all civilians, are bystanders in armed conflict and must be protected from harm rather than singled out for attacks and brutal killings.”

Foreign nationals, including journalists, staff of international organisations and religious figures, are among a wide range of individuals targeted by IS for abduction and arbitrary detention.

Amnesty International is concerned for the safety of prominent Syrian human rights lawyer Abdullah al-Khalil, a long-term contact of the organisation, who is believed to be held by IS after apparently being abducted outside his office in the north-eastern city of al-Raqqa in May 2013