Looking back at 20 years of the Human Rights Defender: photojournalism as a line of defence in war

Looking back at 20 years of the Human Rights Defender: Over the next several weeks, we'll be showcasing some of the highlights of 20 years of articles and photographs from the Defender. This photograph is from Stephen Dupont's body of work in Afghanistan. Stephen is one of Australia's most prominent documentary photographers and his controversial photo, U.S soldiers from the 173rd Airborne burn the bodies of two dead Taliban fighter in Gonbaz, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, 2005 generated worldwide outrage, both in the Islamic press and in the U.S. The troops’ actions were condemned by many, as contrary to the rules of war, as specified in the Geneva conventions. While U.S. Army Central Command released a statement at the time reinforcing the Army’s policy against desecrating the bodies of dead enemy combatants, the commander of the responsible battalion claimed the actions were taken for reasons of hygiene. It was alleged by U.S. command that the bodies had been unclaimed and were decomposing close to a village. Irrespective of the truth of the situation, the stark images provoke questions about decency and loss in war-time as well as the conduct of the military.

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Photographer: Stephen Dupont

Author: Brigit Morris