Israel: one year after killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, RSF denounces scandalous impunity that persists in the case
One year after Al Jazeera’s well known Palestine correspondent was fatally shot while reporting in the West Bank on 11 May 2022, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the lack of progress in the official investigations into her death and the failure to bring any one to justice.
Several events are being held to pay tribute to Shireen Abu Akleh on the first anniversary of her death while covering an Israeli army raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank. But justice has yet to be rendered even though many expert reports pointed to direct Israeli Defence Forces responsibility and the IDF even acknowledged that the fatal shot was “very probably” fired by one of their soldiers.
“When there is a will there is a way. Although all the investigations clearly show that Israeli forces were responsible for Shireen Abu Akleh’s death, the absence of political will still prevents justice from being rendered. The systematic Israeli impunity is outrageous and cannot continue. RSF will remain mobilized on all fronts until those responsible have been identified and brought to justice.”
After then Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said on 6 December 2022 that “no one will interrogate IDF soldiers,” all eyes turned to the United States, as Abu Akleh was a US citizen as well as a Palestinian one. But there has been little progress despite pressure from US legislators and Abu Akleh’s family.
According to the US publication Axios, the US security coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority submitted a new report on Abu Akleh’s death to the US State Department on 2 May. The report has not been published but, at a press briefing the next day, a State Department spokesperson said he understood that the report’s conclusion was unchanged, namely that, although “IDF gunfire was likely the reason,” her death was “unintentional.”
This conclusion is refuted by the independent investigation carried out in September 2022 by Al-Haq, a Palestinian human rights organisation, and by Forensic Architecture Investigation Unit, which blamed “the deliberate and repeated targeting of Shireen and her colleagues by the [Israeli occupying forces].” Meanwhile, the findings of the criminal investigation that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation launched on 5 November 2022 have yet to be published.
On the basis of the conclusions of Al Haq’s FAI Unit, Abu Akleh’s niece, Lina Abu Akleh, filed a complaint on behalf of the family with the International Criminal Court on 20 September 2022, accusing the IDF of killing the Al Jazeera reporter intentionally and calling for an ICC investigation. With RSF’s support, the Qatari broadcaster submitted additional evidence to the ICC two and a half months later.
Since Abu Akleh’s death, the Israeli security forces have continued to target reporters covering Israeli operations in the Palestinian territories. An RSF investigation found that at least 17 journalists were directly targeted by Israeli security forces in the space of a week last April in the West Bank or Jerusalem.