Maureen Clare Murphy
The Electronic Intifada / December 7, 2022
Al-Jazeera has submitted a request for an investigation into the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh by the International Criminal Court.
The Doha-based network said that its case presented to the tribunal follows “a full and detailed investigation.”
Al-Jazeera added that its submission presents new evidence showing that Abu Akleh, a longtime television correspondent for the network, was deliberately killed while reporting on an Israeli raid in the northern West Bank city of Jenin during May.
After initially blaming Palestinians, and following unprecedented international scrutiny, Israel eventually admitted that one of its soldiers likely killed the iconic journalist but claimed that it was unintentional.
Israel has declined to bring criminal charges against any of the soldiers or commanders involved, with outgoing defense minister Benny Gantz claiming on Tuesday that “this was a clear combat incident that was investigated in the most thorough and deepest manner.”
The Palestinian Authority, as well as independent investigations by media outlets, human rights groups and the United Nations, have found that Abu Akleh was killed by a well-aimed Israeli sharpshooter’s bullet, which Al-Jazeera says was manufactured in the US.
“The claim by the Israeli authorities that Shireen [Abu Akleh] was killed by mistake in an exchange of fire is completely unfounded,” Al-Jazeera stated on Tuesday.
“The evidence shows that this deliberate killing was part of a wider campaign to target and silence Al-Jazeera,” the network added.
Al Jazeera said that its submission “also includes cases of other Palestinian journalists who have been targeted by the Israeli authorities, including the bombing of Al-Jazeera’s Gaza office in 2021.”
A witness statement from Al-Jazeera reporter Givara Budeiri is also part of the submission. Budeiri and Al-Jazeera cameraman Nabil Mazzawi were “arrested and assaulted” while covering a protest in Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem where Israel seeks to remove Palestinians from their homes and put Jewish settlers in their place.
Al Jazeera’s lawyer Rodney Dixon said that Budeiri “was detained and beaten and tortured” following her arrest in June 2021. Her interrogators “kept saying that this is because you are with Al-Jazeera,” Dixon added.
Witness testimony included in the dossier shows the chilling effect of Abu Akleh’s killing without accountability, the network said.
The ICC prosecutes individuals rather than states and prioritizes top brass and government leaders who author and execute policy, rather than rank-and-file soldiers.
So while the identities of the soldier who killed Abu Akleh and the commanders involved are not known to her family or Al-Jazeera, her killing “is part of a wider pattern that the prosecution should be investigating,” Dixon said.
Lina Abu Akleh, Shireen’s niece, stated on behalf of her family on Tuesday that they supported Al-Jazeera’s submission to the ICC and criticized the court for failing “to take meaningful action towards accountability.”
In September, the International Federation of Journalists, International Center of Justice for Palestinians and Palestinian Journalists Syndicate delivered a complaint to the International Criminal Court on behalf of the Abu Akleh family and Al-Jazeera producer Ali Samoudi, who was moderately injured during the same Israeli raid.
And two weeks before Abu Akleh was killed, those same organizations submitted a complaint to the ICC over “the systematic targeting of Palestinian journalists,” including the killing or maiming of four journalists while they were marked as press and covering demonstrations in Gaza.
The Palestinian Authority has also provided evidence to the court regarding Abu Akleh’s killing.
“And yet there’s been complete silence from the office of the prosecutor on this case, on cases across the board, in fact, in the Palestine situation,” Dixon said during a press conference at The Hague on Tuesday.
The network’s submission comes as state parties to the ICC assemble in The Hague and amid criticism of chief prosecutor Karim Khan’s foot-dragging on the Palestine investigation opened by his predecessor in 2021. (Khan announced this week that he would visit Palestine next year.)
The family of Abu Akleh, a US citizen, has also pressed the Biden administration in Washington for an independent investigation.
The State Department announced on 4 July, a major holiday in the US, that its review concluded that an Israeli bullet likely killed Abu Akleh but added, without explanation, that there was “no reason to believe” she was deliberately targeted.
The US has pressed Israel to revise its rules of engagement, only to be rebuffed by Tel Aviv.
Last month, the FBI reportedly told Israeli officials that it was investigating Abu Akleh’s killing.
The Biden administration opposes an investigation of the reporter’s killing by the International Criminal Court, with State Department spokesperson Ned Price saying in May that it is not “an appropriate venue.”
Yet during the same press briefing, Price said the White House welcomed The Hague’s investigation of war crimes in Ukraine.
Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada