Why is Al Jazeera taking killed journalist case to the ICC?

Al Jazeera has assigned a legal team to refer the killing of its journalist Shireen Abu Akleh by Israeli forces to the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

Protest over the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh in New York city.
A protester holds a photo of slain Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh [File: Alex Kent/Getty Images]

The Al Jazeera Media Network has said that it will submit a case to the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague to investigate the killing of its journalist Shireen Abu Akleh by Israeli forces.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the network said it had formed an international coalition that consists of its legal team along with international experts, and is preparing a dossier on the killing of Abu Akleh for submission to the ICC prosecutor.

Abu Akleh, 51, was shot with a bullet on May 11, while she was wearing a helmet and a vest that was clearly marked with the word “PRESS”.

Moreover, the Qatar-based network also announced it would ask the court to investigate the Israeli bombing “and total destruction” of Al Jazeera’s office in Gaza in May 2021, during Israel’s 11-day assault on Gaza.

On Friday, lawyers who have filed a case at the ICC on the Israeli targeting of Palestinian journalists and media said they would include Abu Akleh’s killing in the complaint.

Here is what you need to know:

What is the ICC?

Established in 1998 and in force since 2002, the ICC was established in order to prosecute and punish individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression.

The preamble of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the treaty that established the ICC, states that “the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole must not go unpunished”.

Why is Al Jazeera going to the ICC?

Al Jazeera has called Abu Akleh’s killing a “blatant murder” that violates “international laws and norms”.

In its statement on Thursday, the network said according to Article 8 of the ICC charter, “targeting war correspondents, or journalists working in war zones or occupied territories by killing or physically assaulting them, is a war crime”.

“The Network vows to follow every path to achieve justice for Shireen, and ensure those responsible for her killing are brought to justice and held accountable in all international justice and legal platforms and courts,” the media outlet added.

Palestinian women stand on May 19, 2022 in front of a mural, part of an art exhibit honouring slain Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh
Palestinian women stand in front of a mural, part of an art exhibit honouring Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh [File: Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP]

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority has also formally asked the ICC to investigate Abu Akleh’s death.

“We have documented [the crime] and submitted a file about it to the ICC prosecutor alongside other Israeli violations,” Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki said on Monday.

Based in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Authority has been a state party to the ICC since 2015.

In addition to investigating Abu Akleh’s killing, Al Jazeera has also asked the ICC to look into the destruction of its offices in May 2021 during Israel’s 11-day assault on Gaza.

Israeli air raids destroyed the 11-storey al-Jalaa building that hosted Al Jazeera’s bureau and offices of the United States-based news agency The Associated Press.

What are the expectations from the ICC?

Earlier this week, the general secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative accused the ICC of a “double standard” in its handling of cases submitted by Palestinians.

“We have been providing information for the past 13 years but investigation has not been started yet. And in less than two months the ICC has sent 42 investigators to Ukraine,” Mustafa Barghouti, a former Palestinian information minister, said.

International experts have often alleged the ICC holds a bias against African nations and others in the Global South, while ignoring human rights abuses committed by Western nations and their allies.

Nevertheless, the Palestinians previously welcomed the ICC’s announcement in March 2021 that it would be opening a formal inquiry into human rights abuses committed by Israel in the occupied territories since June 2014.

The court has said it had jurisdiction in the Israel-occupied Palestinian territories.

Israel’s leader at the time, Benjamin Netanyahu, accused the ICC of “anti-Semitism”, calling it an “attack” on his country.

Israel is one of the few countries, including China and the United States, that is not a member of the ICC and therefore claims it has no jurisdiction over its actions.

The administration of US President Joe Biden has previously criticised the ICC’s effort to assert jurisdiction over Israeli actions in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Source: Al Jazeera