The Hague, the Netherlands – A dossier submitted by Al Jazeera to the International Criminal Court (ICC) with a formal request to investigate the killing of veteran television correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh shows how her death unfolded and how it has had a “chilling effect” among Palestinian journalists, a lawyer for the global TV network says.
Abu Akleh, a Palestinian American correspondent with Al Jazeera for 25 years, was killed by Israeli forces on May 11 on a road in Jenin in the northern occupied West Bank.
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The request received by the court on Tuesday includes statements from witnesses and their video footage, including new unseen footage, lawyer Rodney Dixon KC said.
The chronology produced from the evidence shows “the only firing that was going on” when Abu Akleh and her colleagues were on the road was “firing at the journalists”, Dixon explained.
Abu Akleh and her colleagues at the time were wearing protective helmets and jackets emblazoned with “PRESS”. The evidence produced by Al Jazeera counters claims by Israeli authorities that Abu Akleh was killed in a crossfire.
In September, it said there was a “high probability” an Israeli soldier “accidentally hit” the journalist but that it would not launch a criminal investigation.
The submission also includes cases of other Palestinian journalists who have been targeted by the Israeli authorities, including the bombing of Al Jazeera’s Gaza office in 2021.
“That’s all to show that this has been going on for some time and that Al Jazeera has been targeted generally,” said Dixon, who investigated the killing of Abu Akleh, compiled the evidence and submitted it to the ICC on behalf of Al Jazeera.
Another witness statement that the dossier includes is from Al Jazeera journalist Givara Budeiri. In 2021, Israeli police arrested and assaulted Budeiri and destroyed the equipment of Al Jazeera cameraman Nabil Mazzawi. They were covering a sit-in in the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah to mark the 54th anniversary of the Naksa, the event in 1967 when Israel seized what remained of the Palestinian homeland.
“She was detained and beaten and tortured on the 5th of June 2021,” Dixon said.
“What we’ve emphasised in this submission is that those who were interrogating her kept saying that this is because you are with Al Jazeera,” he said.
Witness testimonies in the dossier point to fear among journalists and how such attacks are affecting Palestinian journalists’ ability to work on the ground, Dixon said.
Al Jazeera journalists who were interviewed highlight how Abu Akleh’s killing has had a “chilling effect” and has created concerns about how to go about their work safely.
The evidence shows that “Shireen was such a cautious journalist, always going to every measure to protect herself and others,” Dixon said. “And on the day they had taken all those measures. And the witnesses have consistently said that this was a shock – that they were suddenly fired on, directly.”
Previously, he explained, there was an unwritten code under which Israeli forces would tell journalists they were not welcome in an area or shoot tear gas or even warning shots.
The fact Abu Akleh’s killing happened “in a situation where they did not expect it at all has made people realise that they could be next”, Dixon said.
“So it’s completely new ground where they are deeply concerned there are no boundaries,” the lawyer said. “Wherever they go now, they could be fired at because this has happened once, and there have been no consequences.”