News network Al Jazeera announced on Tuesday that it has referred the Israeli military forces to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, over the killing earlier this year of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.
In its case to the ICC prosecutor, the Al Jazeera Media Network argued that evidence its legal team collected over the course of its investigation shows that soldiers with the Israeli Defense Forces deliberately killed the 51-year-old veteran Palestinian American journalist in the occupied West Bank as part of a wider campaign to target and silence the network.
Palestinian officials, Al Jazeera and Abu Akleh’s family have all accused Israel of intentionally targeting and killing the journalist, who was wearing a helmet and a protective vest clearly identifying her as press when she was shot last May while covering an Israeli military raid in Jenin.
Abu Akleh, who is also a U.S. citizen, had covered the occupied West Bank for Al Jazeera for decades and was a highly recognized face in the region. Her death shook the Middle East and prompted calls for justice.
“Shireen’s murder is the ultimate demonstration of a pattern of IDF targeting journalists. This is called a war crime,” Antoine Bernard, director of advocacy at Reporters Without Borders, said Tuesday at a press conference.
After the incident, the IDF launched an internal investigation and acknowledged that Abu Akleh likely died by Israeli fire. But the Israeli military denies that one of its soldiers intentionally targeted the journalist. Critics have long accused the Israeli military of doing a poor job of investigating wrongdoing by its own forces and holding them accountable.
Israeli authorities never followed up with a criminal investigation and allege that Abu Akleh was mistakenly shot in crossfire. But the case submitted to the ICC by Al Jazeera includes new witness evidence and footage that “clearly shows that Shireen and her colleagues were directly fired at by Israeli Defense Forces,” Al Jazeera attorney Cameron Doley said at the press conference Tuesday.
“At the very least, those in command should be held responsible because they have said there is no suspicion here of any crime,” Al Jazeera attorney Rodney Dixon told reporters. “So there’s been a complete cover-up.”
Last month, the FBI announced that it was opening its own criminal investigation into Abu Akleh’s killing, angering Israeli officials who called the probe a “grave mistake” and refused to cooperate. Abu Akleh’s family released a statement supporting a “truly independent, credible, and thorough” probe by the U.S. that follows “the evidence where it leads, up and down the chain of command.”
“The evidence is overwhelmingly clear,” Abu Akleh’s niece, Lina Abu Akleh, said on Tuesday. “It’s time for the ICC to take action, and we’d expect anyone to do the same if it was your sister, your aunt or best friend that was killed.”
In March 2021, the ICC separately launched a probe into possible Israeli war crimes against Palestinians, including behavior that several human rights groups have publicly said meets the international definition of apartheid. The Israeli government has rejected those allegations and called the ICC’s probe biased.