United Nations (UN) human rights experts have that the assassination of Palestinian-American Al-Jazeera Palestine correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh, “who was clearly performing her duties as a journalist may constitute a war crime.”
A joint statement signed by the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Francesca Albanese, the Rapporteur on extrajudicial summary or arbitrary executions, Morris Tidball-Binz, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Reem Alsalem, and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Irene Khan.
The statement condemned the killing of Abu Akleh and called for a “rapid, transparent, thorough, and independent investigation into her death.”
“Abu Akleh’s killing is part of a continuation of the high rate of attacks against media workers, particularly Palestinian journalists. More than 40 Palestinian journalists have reportedly been killed since 2000, with hundreds injured or targeted for violence. Women Palestinian journalists also regularly experience violence in the course of their work just for being journalists”, said the experts.
“The killing of Abu Akleh is another serious attack on media freedom and the freedom of expression, amid the escalation of violence in the occupied West Bank.”
“The targeting of journalists working in the Occupied Palestinian Territories [OPT] and the failure of the Israeli occupation authorities to adequately investigate the killing of media professionals also violates the right to life”, their statement continued.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has submitted an official memo to the International Criminal Court (ICC) regarding the systematic targeting of journalists in the OPT, and has demanded that the killing of Abu Akleh be “part of the ongoing investigation.”
The joint statement warned that “the lack of accountability gives a free hand to the continuation of extrajudicial executions. The safety of journalists is essential to ensuring freedom of expression and media freedom.”
“The unsustainable situation is inherent to the context of protracted military occupation, in which violence and repression are used to perpetuate a system of Palestinian subjugation,” said the experts.
“This is a political reality that requires firm action based on accountability and general compliance with international law. This must commence with the dismantlement of the occupation, including the Gaza blockade and the illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.”
Last Wednesday, the Palestinian Ministry of Health announced the death of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh after she was shot by the Israeli occupation forces. She was killed whilst covering the storming of the Jabriyat neighborhood, near the Jenin refugee camp, north of the city of the same name.
In the same incident, Journalist Ali Smoudi was shot in the back by occupation forces. His condition is now stable.
Abu Akleh was amongst the first field correspondents for the Al Jazeera network. For a quarter of a century she covered the occupation’s attacks against the people of Palestine.