GENEVA (11 May 2023) – On the one-year anniversary of Shireen Abu Akleh’s killing, UN experts raised the alarm today that justice for the journalist’s death has been denied.
“After a year, Israeli authorities have failed to hold the perpetrators of Abu Akleh’s killing accountable, while independent investigations have pointed at the culpability of Israeli forces. Justice remains, again, hostage of politics,” the experts said.
Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American journalist and acclaimed correspondent for Al Jazeera, was shot dead on 11 May 2022, while performing her duty as a journalist reporting on Israel’s raid in the Jenin refugee camp. Several independent investigations carried out by various bodies and organisations, including the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, concluded that Abu Akleh was most likely killed by seemingly well-targeted shots fired by Israeli forces, despite her wearing clear identification as a journalist. Internal investigations carried out by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) found “a high possibility” that Abu Akleh was “accidentally hit” by IDF gunfire. However, to date, Israeli authorities have not opened a criminal investigation into her death or held anyone accountable.
“So far, every one of the requirements under international law for the investigation of potentially unlawful deaths, namely: promptness, effectiveness and thoroughness, independence and impartiality and transparency, appears to have been violated in this case,” the experts said.
“International law demands, at minimum: an effective, thorough, independent, impartial and transparent investigation into Abu Akleh’s death. These steps must be carried out in accordance with applicable international standards, including the Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016). Failing to carry out a prompt and effective investigation, followed by prosecution and judicial process, may in itself constitute a violation of the right to life,” they said.
“We also urge the Israeli authorities to ensure that those responsible are held accountable without delay,” the experts said, recalling that Ms. Abu Akleh’s family must have access to justice, truth and adequate reparation, and emphasising that the whole world needs to know what happened.
“The safety of journalists, particularly in situations of conflict and occupation, is critical to support accountability and transparency,” the experts said. “The deliberate killing of a journalist in such situations amounts
to extrajudicial execution, an egregious violation of the right to life, and wilful killing under the fourth Geneva Convention. It is thus paramount that journalists are provided with effective protective measures”.
The experts also decried the record-high number of killings of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem in recent months in the context of raids by Israeli forces, often targeting refugee camps. In 2022, out of 9000 Israeli operations, 702 targeted refugee camps in the occupied West Bank. In 2023, already more than 100 Palestinians have been killed in the context of such operations, including in Jenin, Nablus and Jericho. Since 2001, at least 18 Palestinian journalists have been reportedly killed by the IDF in the occupied Palestinian territory and no one has been held accountable for those deaths.
“Evidence indicates that the Israeli forces repeatedly deploy lethal force against Palestinians in violation of international law, which prohibits intentional lethal use of firearms except when strictly unavoidable to protect life,” the experts said.
“The killing of Shireen Abu Akleh is symbolic, embodying grave human rights violations that Palestinians have faced under the Israeli occupation for over 55 years,” the experts said. “Their rights to self-determination, life, freedom of expression have been consistently violated. The Palestinian people live under the yoke of pervasive impunity and lack of reparations for violations committed,” they said.
The experts urged the international community to take concrete action in the face of these violations. “The United Nations Charter is betrayed every day in the occupied Palestinian territory,” they said.
The experts raised the matter with the Israeli Government and duly called for a prompt, transparent, thorough and independent investigation into Abu Akleh’s death, for which they also offered their specialised forensic assistance and technical advice. The Israeli Government has not responded to the communication to date.
The experts: Francesca Albanese, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967; Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Margaret Satterthwaite, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work.
They are independent from any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.
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