dead family Al Jazeera Journalist Shireen Abu Akleh allowed her death to be added to a legal complaint filed with the International Criminal Court, arguing that Israeli security forces systematically target Palestinian journalists in violation of international humanitarian law.
The case, originally submitted by Bendmans in April, focused on four Palestinian journalists in helmets and journalist jackets, two of whom were maimed and two shot dead. It also covers alleged attacks on Gaza’s media infrastructure in May 2021.
Lawyers from Bendmans and Dotty Street Chambers announced the addition of Abu Okla’s May 11 death to the existing lawsuit at a press conference in London.
They said the case was vital due to the repeated failure of Israeli security forces to investigate such incidents and the inability of Palestinian correspondents to secure compensation in local Israeli courts.
“The ICC prosecutor must investigate our complaints and prosecute those responsible to send a clear message not only to Israeli forces and the government, but to all governments that targeting journalists is a crime and journalists are not fair game,” said Jennifer Robinson of Doughty Street. The ICC needs to open the case because it was emblematic of a problem that has been going on for many years.
The ICC will have to rule on whether there is a prima facie case that Israeli security forces deliberately targeted reporters, and whether its internal investigations are consistent with natural justice. There will also be jurisdictional issues. In February 2021, the ICC said its jurisdiction extended to Gaza and the West Bank, raising the possibility that the ICC could take up the case. Israel itself is not a party to the ICC, which raises issues of enforcement of any final ruling.
The cause is supported by representatives from the International Federation of Journalists, the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, and the Center for International Justice for Palestinians.
“There was no lack of evidence, but political will,” said Tayeb Ali, Bundman’s attorney in the case, adding that “Israel in the past was endowed with impunity.”
He said: “Israel has enjoyed a devastating impunity against accountability for the actions of its armed forces, and has repeatedly shown that it is a bad faith investigator. And he has not succeeded in holding anyone accountable for the dozens of Palestinian journalists who have been killed or maimed so far.”
A free press is the cornerstone of democracy. Targeting journalists in conflict zones anywhere in the world is unacceptable and should have serious consequences for those who try to hide their crimes and abuses by killing or maiming journalists.”
Abu Oqla was killed by Israeli forces’ bullets while covering an Israeli military raid in the city of Jenin. Its local producer, Ali al-Samoudi, was shot in the back at the scene of the accident.
Separately, the Palestinian Authority announced, on Thursday, the results of the investigation into her death, saying that it revealed that the Israeli forces deliberately shot and killed the reporter.
Palestinian Public Prosecutor Akram al-Khatib said that Abu Akleh was hit by an armor-piercing bullet, adding that the investigation “proves that at the scene of the accident there were no Palestinian gunmen present, and that the Israeli forces were the only ones present.”
He added that the bullet that killed Abu Oqla was 5.56 mm caliber of steel used by NATO forces. Al-Khatib added that the bullet was fired by a soldier who stood about 170 meters away. He also said that the Palestinian Authority would not hand over the bullet to Israel for examination.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz responded to the Palestinians’ report, saying that “Israel considers the death of Shirin Abu Akle to be regrettable, and the IDF is conducting an examination to reach a real investigation. Any claim that the IDF intentionally abused journalists or non-combatants is a blatant lie.” .
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