Israel: UN concludes that IDF "intentionally or recklessly" killed Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh

  • 26 Oct 2023

The UN report concluded the Israeli security forces used lethal force without justification. UPDATE: Shireen Abu Akleh shrine has been desecrated in the West Bank.

UPDATE: Shireen Abu Akleh shrine desecrated in the West Bank. Read more on the IFJ website

Israeli soldiers took Shireen Abu Akleh’s life without cause, according to a report published by the United Nations on 16 October 2023. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) together with its affiliate, the Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate (PJS) and the NUJ called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the killing of the Palestinian journalist. If citizens are to have any faith in the system of international law enforcement, it is vital that Shireen’s case is heard in the Hague.

The report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel, was submitted to the UN General Council in accordance with Human Rights Council resolution S-30/1.

The UN report also finds that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel made statements about the likely source of the bullet for which there was no evidence. A subsequent Israeli security forces investigation into the incident also made claims about gunfire from sources other than Israeli soldiers for which there is no evidence. On the basis of these falsehoods, the Israeli Advocate General found that there was no suspicion of criminal offence that justified the opening of a Military Police Investigation, according to the UN report.

The UN report ends its highly detailed assessment of Abu Akleh’s death: “The Commission concludes on reasonable grounds that the Israeli security forces used lethal force without justification under international human rights law and intentionally or recklessly violated the right to life of Shireen Abu Akleh.”

The UN investigation further states that it has identified the military unit from which the lethal bullets were fired – the Duvdevan Unit. The report’s authors also say that they know (although do not disclose) the name of  the commanding officer. It notes that the wilful killing of a protected person is a war crime, as defined by the Geneva Convention. 

The report recommends that Israel: “Fully cooperate with the investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation into the death of Shireen Abu Akleh and with the International Criminal Court investigation into the Situation in the State of Palestine.” 

To date, Israel has refused both.

The IFJ alleges that the Israeli legal system lacks willingness and credibility to properly investigate the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, as well as the cases of other Palestinian media workers. As Israeli human rights’ organisations have previously noted, the country has systematically failed to investigate other cases, such as offences committed by soldiers against Palestinians and military operation ‘Protective Edge’ conducted in 2014 in Gaza.  

Nasser Abu Bakr, president of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate said: 

The UN Report confirms what has been clear to Palestinians for years – that the Israeli defence forces deliberately use lethal force to silence and intimidate journalists. If Palestinian citizens are to have any faith in the system of international law enforcement, it is vital that Shireen’s case is heard in the Hague.”

Antony Bellanger, IFJ general secretary,  said: 

“The conclusions of this report are devastating, and provide irrefutable justification for the IFJ’s campaign for this case to be heard at the International Criminal Court. The IFJ made its complaint about this case to the Court over a year ago. Prosecutor Karim Khan must now make this a priority”.

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