Defending the truth from the battlefield: war reporters gather at Birkbeck with AOAV and Frontline 

photo from @DRovera#Children at work in #Raqqa selling fuel & scavenging in the rubble of bombed out houses for recyclable materials to sell for a few cents to buy some bread. No life for little kids. #Syria war’.

London,  8 February 2020 – “There are the deniers of attacks and there also is the lack of political will: Amnesty documents with the purpose that those who engage with certain practices change those practices. But it doesn’t matter how much evidence you bring to certain governments, if they don’t want to admit it for a variety of political, economic and ideological reasons, they wont”. Donatella Rovera, senior crisis response Adviser at Amnesty International, explains how reporting and collecting evidence of human rights and international law violations from war zones clash against the interests of local and international actors and weapons manufacturers. 

She talked to a crowded hall at Birkbeck College which organised the event-workshop “Conflict reporting in the 21st Century” with AOAV (Action on Arms Violence) and the Frontline Club, and the count of what she witnessed and reported from Libya, Yemen, Syria Iraq put a strain on the nearly three hundred and fifty young students’ strength and determination. 

“But some times – she adds – changes happen and come from the most unlikely quarters: I remember in 2015 in Yemen we documented the use of the latest type of cluster bombs made by Textron, a US company which was advertising this particular type of cluster bomb; by then cluster bombs have been outlawed internationally”

“There have been 16.000 civilians fatalities in Iraq war which haven’t previously been recorded and Americans have been secretly tracking, Americans were shooting to kill robots and  huge numbers of Iraqi have been killed because american were so terrified and were over reacting ” denounces conflict specialist Chris Woods, founder and director at Airwars.    

US have always denied its involvement in deliberate killing of civilians:“that’s why it is so important we remember what Julian Assange is on trial for and what he has done putting incredibly valuable and important information to public domain”. Woods, who in the past worked with the Wikileaks’ founder, said “If Julian will enter the US detention system he will never get out of it” adding his voice to the many international concerns the Australian journalist could be sentenced and extradited from the UK to America at the hearing next 24 February at the Belmarsh prison where he is currently detained.   

Previously acquitted under Obama’s administration, Assange is accused for the publication on Internet of leaked files, Iraq War Logs, the Afghan War Logs, Cablegate and the decrypted video Collateral murder. His trial turned from a legal prosecution into judiciary persecution, with a sneaking intimidatory propaganda against those journalists who put their lives at risk by reporting crimes attributable to governments and against those who challenge the institutionalised channels of information. 

Giles Duley lost both his legs and his left arm in an explosion in Afghanistan in February 2011 when he stepped on a landmine. He never gave up and soon after the incident while risking to die he repeated “I am still a photographer”. Today he does not content himself “to simply handing out a photo to others and say ‘you do what you want with that’, that’s not enough for me. That means, for instance, having an exhibition at the House of Commons so when a country as part of a coalition decides to vote on another war, at least they know what the reality and consequences are.”  

Holding to account a government: “how can you do that when for instance, the Saudis become the ‘allies’ in a coalition and the others are demonised” in the context of governments which are deeply corrupt. That’s the challenge, notes Jamine di Giovanni, war reporter for the Guardian and the New York Times, recently from Syria “where without transitional justice – she said – that’s will never heal in a country where millions of civilians have been threatened for nine years”.