UK lawyers add shooting of Shireen Abu Akleh to International Criminal Court complaint

Case 'brings into sharp focus the need for urgent action' over deaths of Palestinian journalists involving Israeli forces, says human rights lawyer

A mural at the site where Palestinian-American reporter Shireen Abu Akleh was shot dead in the West Bank city of Jenin. AP
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British human rights lawyers are adding the killing of American-Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh to a complaint to the International Criminal Court (ICC) over the “systematic targeting” of Palestinian journalists by Israel.

This announcement in London on Friday follows decisions by the Palestinian Authority and Abu Akleh's employer, Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera, to submit separate cases to the ICC.

In April, lawyers from UK firms Doughty Street Chambers and Bindmans LLP made submissions on behalf of four Palestinian journalists — Ahmed Abu Hussein, Yaser Murtaja, Muath Amarneh and Nedal Eshtayeh — killed or injured by Israeli forces while covering demonstrations.

They asked the ICC to investigate into what the International Federation of Journalists, the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate and the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians have called “the systematic targeting, maiming and killing of journalists and the destruction of media infrastructure”.

The lawyers were awaiting a response when Abu Akleh was shot in the head on May 11, while covering a raid by Israeli security forces in Jenin, in the West Bank.

Tayab Ali, a partner at Bindmans LLP, said Abu Akleh's death brought into “sharp focus the need for urgent action”, which led them to add her to their complaint.

“The need for legal action can be seen in the numbers,” Mr Ali said.

“According to a report from the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate at least 50 journalists, mostly Palestinians but also foreign, have been killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank since 2000.

“No one has been held to account for these deaths or attacks.

“Shireen’s family have trusted us to bring what happened to them to the attention of the International Criminal Court and to the world.

“Shireen is not anonymous. She was one of us. She dedicated her life to one of the most important principles in democracy, freedom of speech.”

Barrister Jennifer Robinson of Doughty Street Chambers said they were bringing the case to the ICC because it was “immensely difficult” for Palestinian journalists to seek reparations and justice in the Israeli courts.

“The deliberate targeting of journalists is in all situations a grave violation of the right to life under international human rights law, and in situations of armed conflict that includes occupation, a violation of international humanitarian law and a war crime,” Ms Robinson said.

A Palestinian investigation into the shooting of Abu Akleh concluded she was deliberately killed by Israeli forces as she tried to flee, the authority announced on Thursday.

Israel rejected the findings — with Defence Minister Benny Gantz calling them “a blatant lie”.

It has said will not launch a criminal investigation into the killing.

Updated: May 27, 2022, 3:41 PM