This statement was originally published on rsf.org on 9 May 2019.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the authorities in the Central African Republic to complete all necessary investigations into French photojournalist Camille Lepage's murder five years ago, including a reenactment of the crime, in order to establish the facts of the case before it comes to trial, which could happen quite soon.
In what circumstances was Lepage shot dead in the CAR's western Bouar region on 12 March 2014? After being mislaid for a time in the capital, Bangui, the Lepage murder case file has been found again, but the motive for her murder and the exact circumstances have yet to be established.
For the time being, the investigators seem to working on the assumption that the – mostly Christian – "anti-balaka" militiamen with whom Lepage was travelling were the victims of an ambush. But other theories, such as a dispute between rival militias, cannot be ruled out until all the necessary investigations have been concluded.
During the most recent criminal assizes in Bangui, the Lepage murder was added to the list of upcoming cases, suggesting that it could come to trial shortly.
"Five years after Camille Lepage's murder, there is an urgent need to complete the CAR and French investigations and ensure that every effort has been made to establish the facts before holding a trial, which for the time being seems premature," said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF's Africa desk. "We call on the French and CAR authorities and the United Nations mission in the CAR to do whatever is needed to carry out a reenactment of the murder, in order to get a more precise picture of the circumstances surrounding the crime."
Lepage's mother, Maryvonne Lepage, told RSF: "We will probably never know who exactly shot Camille, but a more extensive field investigation and visit by the judges to the scene of the crime would improve our chances of identifying the assailants, their leaders and their motives."
Film about Camille Lepage
At the end of last year, a crew went to the CAR to make a film about Lepage, which could be released by the end of this year. "It shows what was special about Camille, her commitment to covering the conflict in the Central African Republic at first hand, in the field, with a very powerful human connection," said Boris Lojkine, the film's director.
The CAR continues to be a dangerous country for journalists five years after the civil war began. Three Russian reporters were murdered in the CAR last year after going there to investigate the presence of Russian mercenaries. The complete lack of transparency with which the investigation into their deaths has been conducted led RSF to call for an international investigation.
The CAR is ranked 145th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2019 World Press Freedom Index, after falling 33 places.