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Family of slain Palestinian journalist Abu Akleh sues Israel at ICC

Late Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh

The family of slain Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin in May, has submitted an official complaint to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to demand justice for her cold-blooded murder.

Speaking in front of the ICC in The Hague on Tuesday, Abu Akleh’s brother said that they would do all that is 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 ally,” he said. “They even targeted the person who was trying to pull her into safety after she was shot down.”

Abu Akleh’s brother went on to say that the Israeli soldiers were able to identify who she was given the fact that she was wearing protective gear that clearly identified her as a member of the press.

“Any person shooting at the press is intentionally trying to kill them,” he added.

Wearing press attire, 51-year-old Abu Akleh was murdered in cold blood while covering an Israeli military raid in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin on May 11. Later, her funeral was also attacked by the regime forces. 

Ali Samoudi, a Palestinian journalist who was accompanying her, was hospitalized in stable condition after being shot in the back.

Al-Jazeera, of which Abu Akleh was a staff member, assigned a legal team to refer her killing to the ICC in The Hague at the time.

According to Step Vaessen, a Dutch broadcast journalist at Al Jazeera, the ICC decided in 2021 that it has jurisdiction over violence and war crimes that have occurred in the occupied Palestinian territories.

“That’s why there is some hope here by Palestinian journalists and the government that there will be a start into the investigation here into these cases, including the case of Shireen Abu Akleh,” she said, while speaking at The Hague in the Netherlands.

Jim Boumhelha, the former president of the Palestinian Press Syndicate and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), which supports the complaint, also 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.

“We do hope that people inside the prosecution will take very seriously the document that we have given them,” he told Al Jazeera. “This is the first stage, and we are going through the motions.”

Abu Akleh was one of the most recognizable faces reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for two decades. Her death triggered outrage across the world and led to calls for an independent investigation.

The Palestinians have accused Israel of deliberately targeting Abu Akleh. Palestinian authorities and Al Jazeera see the findings of Israeli investigations as unreliable and call for an international probe.

The Abu Akleh family said that Israel had “refused to take responsibility for the murder” of the journalist.

Jennifer Robinson, one of the Abu Akleh family’s lawyers, said the ICC must end Israel’s impunity.

“There’s been no independent investigation and this investigation and the prosecution of those responsible for Shireen Abu Akleh’s death will provide deterrence for the targeting of journalists in the future,” she said.

“The killing of journalists is an attempt to cover up and prevent their work in documenting human rights abuse and fosters impunity for the injustices that they are seeking to cover.”

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