THE HAGUE — Al Jazeera news channel on Tuesday formally requested the International Criminal Court to investigate the shooting death of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh while reporting from a Palestinian refugee camp in May.
Al Jazeera accused the Israeli government of specifically targeting its journalists, calling Abu Akleh’s death a war crime. The outlet wants ICC prosecutor Karim Khan to include the journalist’s murder, as well as last year’s Israeli airstrike on Al Jazeera’s offices in the Gaza Strip, in his ongoing probe into allegations of war crimes in the West Bank and Gaza.
“My family still doesn’t know who fired the fatal bullet,” Lena Abu Akleh, Shireen’s niece, told reporters at a news conference. The family submitted their own request for an ICC investigation in September.
Following international pressure, the Israel Defense Forces admitted it was likely that one of their soldiers shot the prominent correspondent while she was covering a military raid in the West Bank. The IDF denied that the shooting was intentional and declared the case closed.
“No one will investigate (Israeli) soldiers and no one will preach morality to us in war, certainly not Al-Jazeera,” Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said in a statement responding to Tuesday’s filing.
Al Jazeera saw the killing as yet another attack on Palestinian press freedom. “Palestinian journalists have been targeted for doing their job as journalists,” Cameron Doley, who represents Al Jazeera, told reporters after filing the complaint with the world’s only permanent atrocity crimes tribunal.
ICC prosecutors opened a preliminary examination into alleged Israeli war crimes in Gaza and the occupied West Bank in 2015, but only opened a formal investigation last year after determining the court had jurisdiction.
The US Justice Department launched its own investigation into the deadly encounter after US lawmakers were disappointed by the Israeli military’s response. Abu Akleh obtained American citizenship while living in the United States as a child.