Was Jose Couso's Death in Iraq a War Crime?


By Martine Silber

Le Monde
October 20, 2003

"It's a small victory", David Couso declared when he learned that the judge in the Spanish National Audience had agreed to admit the family's complaint for a "war crime" against three soldiers of the United States Army's Third Infantry Division. His brother, José Couso, a cameraman for the Spanish private television station Telecinco, was killed along with Taras Protsyuk, a journalist from the American agency, Reuters, April 8 in Baghdad, after an American Army tank opened fire on the Palestine Hotel where the majority of the international press was staying. José Couso's death and that the day before of the El Mundo newspaper's special envoy, Julio Laguita, had provoked a strike of the Spanish press when the government refused to demand an inquest. Journalists left cameras, video cameras, notebooks and pencils on the ground on several occasions during official demonstrations,. Each time, the response of José Maria Aznar's government was the same: "The United States government claims it was a mistake and we have no reason to doubt that was the case."

José Couso's friends didn't give up. Every Tuesday at noon they gather in Madrid in front of the ruling Popular Party headquarters and the 8th of each month in front of the U.S. embassy. There were more than a thousand people on October 8th. The next day in Baghdad, Telecinco broadcast a report that tried to reconstitute what happened. A journalist on José Couso's team, Jon Sistiaga, said he was convinced that the attack was "deliberate" and another colleague added: "The Americans didn't want us to witness the massacre that was about to take place." Ann Cooper, Director of the Committee for the Protection of Journalists, stated that the attitude of the American authorities posed "the question of determining whether the army takes the necessary precautions to avoid putting journalists' lives in danger. It's an urgent question: hundreds of journalists continue to work in Iraq and their reporting is vital to any understanding of what's happening there."

More Information on International Justice
More Information on Special International Criminal Tribunals

FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C íŸ 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.