The killing of prominent Palestinian journalist and Al Jazeera correspondent, Shireen Abu Akleh, is a “potential war crime”, UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine, Francesca Albanese, said in an interview with a Turkish news agency yesterday.
Albanese, who last month succeeded her predecessor Professor Michael Lynk, told the Anadolu Agency that Abu Akleh’s killing constitutes a “serious violation of international humanitarian law and is potentially a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.”
“The tragic death of Shireen Abu Akleh is yet another serious attack on journalism and freedom of expression and the right to life and safety in the occupied Palestinian territories,” said Albanese.
“Abu Akleh’s killing must be thoroughly investigated in a transparent, rigorous and independent manner,” Albanese continued asserting that “it is the right moment to demand that the illegal occupation of Palestine be dismantled.”
Al Jazeera has blamed Israel for Abu Akleh’s death saying that the 51-year old was “assassinated in cold blood” by occupation forces. Abu Akleh’s colleagues who witnessed the killing said that she was hit by an Israeli sniper who had pinned them down on the street where the veteran journalist was killed.
The occupation authorities have been accused of denial, obfuscation and lying following their attempts to blame Palestinians for the killing of Abu Akleh. A video complied by the Israeli army and shared widely by advocates of the Apartheid State has been debunked by Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. It found that the Palestinian gunman shown in the video is at a completely different location to where Abu Akleh was killed.
“This morning, B’Tselem’s field researcher in Jenin documented the exact locations in which the Palestinian gunman depicted in a video distributed by the Israeli army, fired, as well as the exact location in which Journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed,” B’Tselem tweeted.
It reiterated: “Documentation of Palestinian gunfire distributed by Israeli military cannot be the gunfire that killed Journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.”
Israeli officials have also been putting pressure on the Palestinian Authority to be included in the investigation. The demand of an occupying force responsible for the death of 86 Palestinian journalists over the decades, has been met with disbelief.
This morning the Palestinian Authority reiterated its rejection of cooperating with Israel in its investigation. A member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, Hussein Al-Sheikh, announced that the PA had rejected a request by the Israeli occupation to open a joint investigation.
Al-Sheikh said on Twitter that the PA is determined to complete the investigation independently, and “will inform her [Abu Akleh’s] family, America, Qatar and all official and popular authorities of the results of the investigation with high transparency.”
He reiterated that “all indications, evidence and witnesses confirm her assassination by Israeli special units.” The Palestinian Ministry of Health has said that journalist Ali Smoudi was also shot in the back by the occupation army but described his injury as stable.
Paying tribute to Abu Akleh, Al Jazeera said that she was one of the first field correspondents for the agency, and for a quarter of a century had covered Israel’s brutal occupation despite the risk to her life.
The ICC launched an investigation into Israeli war crimes last year as has the UN. The world body set up an International Commission of Inquiry to investigate violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel.