GENEVA (13 May 2022) – UN human rights experts* condemn the killing of Al Jazeera journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, in the occupied West Bank and call for a prompt, transparent, thorough and independent investigation into her death.
The experts said Abu Akleh’s killing is part of a continuation of the high rate of attacks against media workers, particularly Palestinian journalists. More than 40 Palestinian journalists have reportedly been killed since 2000, with hundreds injured or targeted for violence. Women Palestinian journalists also regularly experience violence in the course of their work just for being journalists.
“The killing of Abu Akleh is another serious attack on media freedom and freedom of expression, amid the escalation of violence in the occupied West Bank,” said the experts.
“We demand a prompt, independent, impartial, effective, thorough and transparent investigation into the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, in full compliance with the Revised United Nations Manual on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions (The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death). We urge the Israeli and Palestinian authorities and other stakeholders to cooperate with such an investigation.”
Shireen Abu Akleh was shot dead on 11 May near the entrance to Jenin refugee camp, while reporting on an arrest operation conducted by the Israeli forces. Abu Akleh and other journalists present in the area wore protective gear clearly identifying them as media workers.
“Authorities have an obligation not to harm journalists and to protect them from harm under international humanitarian law and international human rights law,” said the experts. “The killing of Abu Akleh, who was clearly performing her duties as a journalist, may constitute a war crime.”
The targeting of journalists working in the occupied Palestinian territory and the Israeli authorities’ failure to properly investigate killings of media personnel also violate the rights to life and effective remedies, the experts said. The International Federation of Journalists has filed a formal submission to the ICC on the systematic targeting of journalists in the occupied Palestinian territory: Abu Akhleh’s killing should be part of the ongoing investigation.
“The role of journalists, especially in a context of heightened tension and marked by continuous abuses, like the occupied Palestinian territory, is critical,” they said.
“Lack of accountability gives carte blanche to continue the litany of extrajudicial executions. The safety of journalists is essential in guaranteeing freedom of expression and media freedom.”
Violence has increased in the occupied Palestine territory in recent years. Last year marked the highest number of Palestinian deaths resulting from confrontations with Israelis since 2014, as well as the highest number of settler violence incidents since they started to be reported in 2017.
“The unsustainable situation is inherent to the context of protracted military occupation, in which violence and repression are used to perpetuate a system of Palestinian subjugation,” said the experts.
“This is a political reality that requires firm action based on accountability and general compliance with international law. This must commence with the dismantlement of the occupation, including the Gaza blockade and the illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.”
* The experts: Francesca Albanese, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967; Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Reem Alsalem, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences; and Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.