Lawyers representing the family of Shireen Abu Akleh have submitted a complaint to the International Criminal Court (ICC) demanding accountability for the killing of the Palestinian-American journalist and the shooting of her colleague, Ali Samoudi, by an Israeli sniper in May.
The complaint was hand delivered today by lawyers from Bindmans LLP and Doughty Street Chambers. Representatives from the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS) as well as the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) held a joint press conference with the lawyers this morning outside the Hague.
The new complaint follows the April 2022 submission to the Court which requested the ICC Prosecutor launch an investigation into the systematic targeting, maiming and killing of journalists and destruction of media infrastructure in Palestine. Shireen was killed only days after the ICC prosecutor acknowledged receipt of the first complaint. The group has retained leading lawyers from Bindmans LLP and Doughty Street Chambers to represent the victims at the ICC.
The group’s April complaint details the systematic targeting of Palestinian journalists on behalf of four named victims – Ahmed Abu Hussein, Yaser Murtaja, Muath Amarneh and Nedal Eshtayeh – who were also killed or maimed by Israeli snipers while covering demonstrations in Gaza. All were wearing clearly marked PRESS vests at the time they were shot. The complaint also details the targeting of media infrastructure including the bombing of the Al-Shorouk and Al-Jawhara Towers in Gaza City in May 2021.
Abu Akleh’s brother Anton Abu Akleh said that they would do whatever was necessary to ensure accountability for her killing. “Like we said before, and like other reports said previously, there were more than 16 shots fired towards Shireen and the media and her colleagues who were standing in that alley,” Anton said. “They even targeted the person who was trying to pull her into safety after she was shot down.”
Anton urged the US government to do the “bare minimum” by bringing to justice the killer of the prominent Al Jazeera journalist. He claimed that the reason why the US has not given priority to bringing her killer to account is because the shooter is an Israeli and his victim is a Palestinian. “There must be consequences when a military kills with impunity. No other family should have to face this and we pursue the case on their behalf,” Anton added.
Jim Boumhelha, the former president of the IFJ, said it was a “historic day” not just for Abu Akleh’s family, but for Palestinian journalists who have been on the receiving end of attacks by Israeli forces. Boumhelha explained that pursuing justice for Palestinian journalists within Israeli courts has never worked, due to the lack of an honest and credible due process. But nevertheless he said he remained optimistic. Shireen has become an emblem of Israel’s routine targeting of Palestinian journalists, Boumhelha went on to say.
Barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, Tatyana Eatwell, said that the killing of Abu Akleh is not an isolated incident but “emblematic of the systematic attack on Palestinian journalists”. Failure to hold Israel accountable has led to a culture of impunity. “The consequences of impunity are profound,” said Eatwell, adding that the impunity granted to Israel creates a situation where acts of violence carried out against Palestinian journalists become a norm.
Al Haq’s Forensic Architecture Investigation Unit report on Shireen’s death, which was submitted to the ICC, found that Shireen was deliberately targeted by an Israeli sniper and prevented from receiving medical attention. No shots were fired from a Palestinian gunman and no armed Palestinians were in the vicinity at the time of Abu Akleh’s murder by the Israeli sniper.