On 11 May 2022, veteran Palestinian-American Al Jazeera journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, one of the most respected journalists reporting in the Arab world, one of the most family faces reporting on the political upheaval across the region with unwavering and unapologetic honesty, was shot dead whilst reporting on the Israeli army raid on the Jenin refugee camp and despite wearing a clearly visible press vest.
This tragic event comes at a time when journalists are more under attack when reporting on conflict zones than at any time in our history and at a time when their independent and impartial reporting is needed the most. Shireen Abu Akleh was killed whilst reporting on a deteriorating situation that has descended into renewed conflict and appears to be without end.
Prior to the tragic event, Shireen was covering an Israeli army raid on the Jenin refugee camp and despite wearing a press vest, she was brutally shot in the head by a single bullet. A Palestinian journalist was present as well, named Ali al-Samoudi, who was wounded in the back. Guernica 37 condemns this senseless attack on a renowned and highly respected journalist in what is a crime committed by the Israeli occupation forces, which was clearly intended to prevent the media from conducting their duty, constituting a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions that mandate the protection of civilians as well as UN Security Council Resolution 2222 (2015) on the protection of journalists and associated media personnel in armed conflict. Accountability must be pursued not only against the Israeli forces, but also against the Israeli government, for their intentional targeting of Shireen Abu Akleh. The International Centre for Palestinians (ICJP) asserted that Israeli forces have a “track record of employing lethal force and systematically targeting Palestinian journalists with complete lack of accountability”. Israel, through Shireen’s death, has demonstrated its pursuit of annihilating the truth and its indifference to a peaceful resolution to the ongoing conflict. Therefore, it is time that the international community acts in order to bring to an immediate end the unlawful killing and wounding of journalists, and an independent, transparent investigation must be required. Reports have emerged that Shireen was killed by a sniper shooting at some distance. If those reports are true, and if it is shown that she was deliberately targeted as a member of the media reporting on the Israeli incursion into Jenin, then all those responsible, the person who pulled the trigger and those that gave the order, must be held accountable and if the Israeli authorities lack the political will to hold its own forces accountable for what are undoubtedly crimes under both national and international law, then action will need to be taken at the international level. Let us not forget, this is a crime that falls within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. In April 2022, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate (PJS) and the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) working with leading human rights lawyers from Bindmans LLP and Doughty Street Chambers submitted a formal complaint to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, alleging that Israel’s systematic targeting of journalists working in Palestine and its failure to properly investigate killings of media workers amount to war crimes, have been submitted to the International Criminal Court (ICC). It is now incumbent on the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to prioritise this investigation. We at Guernica 37 express our solidarity for Shireen and we sincerely extend to her family the deepest and unreserved condolences. Impunity must now end.