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New legal complaint submitted to ICC on Israel’s killing of Shireen Abu Akleh

A new legal complaint has been submitted on Tuesday to the International Criminal Court (ICC) regarding Israel’s shooting death of Palestinian-American journalist of Al Jazeera Shireen Abu Akleh.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) and the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS) submitted today a legal complaint on behalf of Shireen Abu Akleh’s family to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands.

The complaint is also being brought on behalf of Ali al-Samoudi, another journalist and Al Jazeera Arabic colleague of Abu Akleh’s who was shot in the same incident.

A previous Communication was submitted to the ICC in April 2022 which requested that the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) open an investigation into the systematic targeting of Palestinian journalists (including Ahmed Abu Hussein, Yaser Murtaja, Muath Amarneh and Nedal Eshtayeh) and media infrastructure by the Israeli occupation forces.

All journalists represented in both complaints were wearing clearly marked PRESS vests at the time they were targeted. The victims, journalists and human rights groups are represented by lawyers from Bindmans LLP and Doughty Street Chambers.

On 3 March 2021, the OTP announced the opening of the investigation into the Situation in the State of Palestine following the ICC’s ruling that it could exercise its criminal jurisdiction in the Situation, and that its territorial scope covered war crimes that occurred in ‘Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem’.

“This presents for the first time, a real opportunity for the accountability of Israel’s alleged policy of targeting journalists and could lead to a formal investigation by the OTP and potential prosecutions,” the UK-based ICJP says.

“The victims in our complaints, including Shireen Abu Akleh’s family, have entrusted us to bring what happened to them to the attention of the International Criminal Court,” Tayab Ali, director of the ICJP, commented.

“Despite the vast amount of evidence pointing to the unlawful killing of Shireen at the hands of an Israeli soldier, she continues to be denied the basic right of a proper independent investigation and for anyone to be held accountable for her killing.”

Tayab Ali noted, “A free press is the cornerstone of a democracy. Journalists are crucial in holding governments that violate international law to account. Israel’s systematic targeting of journalists cannot be allowed to continue.”

The ICJP also called on the OTP to meet with the “victims and investigate the crimes alleged in our complaints. There cannot be a more important time than now for the ICC and international community to send a clear signal to Israel that it cannot continue to act with impunity.”

Despite wearing a protective helmet and blue bulletproof vest clearly marked as “PRESS,” the 51-year-old veteran journalist was shot and killed by Israeli forces in the head while she was covering an Israeli military raid into the Jenin refugee camp on May 11, sparking international outrage and calls for accountability for attacks on journalists. The slain journalist covered events and Israeli aggressions in the occupied Palestinian territory for 25 years.

Multiple witnesses said that Israeli forces killed the journalist. Reports by the investigative group Bellingcat, The Associated Press, CNN, The Washington Post and The New York Times have also come to the same conclusion.

On June 24, the UN’s OHCHR also announced that information it had gathered showed that the bullets that killed Abu Akleh were fired by Israeli forces. Spokesperson for the UN’s OHCHR, Ravina Shamdasani, told reporters in Geneva, “All information we have gathered is consistent with the finding that the shots that killed Abu Akleh and injured her colleague Ali Sammoudi came from Israeli security forces and not from indiscriminate firing by armed Palestinians.”

The CNN investigation in May said evidence suggests that the veteran journalist was killed in a “targeted attack by Israeli forces”.

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