Al Jazeera knocks the door of ICC - GulfToday

Al Jazeera knocks the door of ICC

An artist applies final touches to a mural that he painted to pay tribute to Shireen Abu Akleh. Reuters

An artist applies final touches to a mural that he painted to pay tribute to Shireen Abu Akleh. Reuters

Al Jazeera has on Tuesday submitted a request to the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague to investigate the killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh by the Israeli security forces during a raid at Jenin, the refugee camp in the West Bank in May this year, and prosecute the perpetrators of the crime. The Al Jazeera channel has submitted a dossier, which includes the evidence gathered in a six-month investigation carried out by the channel, including the statements of eye-witnesses. Shireen’s family had approached the ICC in September. And the family of the dead journalist has expressed satisfaction that Al Jazeera, her employer, has come to the ICC with a similar plea.

Al Jazeera’s lawyer Rodney Dixon said that the request was not confined to the case of Shireen alone, but it was made “in the context of a wider attack on Al Jazeera, and journalists on Palestine. The focus is on Shireen, and this particular killing, this outrageous killing. But the evidence we submit looks at all of the acts against Al Jazeera because it has been targeted as an international organisation. And the evidence shows that what the (Israeli) authorities are trying to do is to shut it up.” A new Al Jazeera documentary, Fault Lines, shows in details how Shireen and other journalists were fired at directly and there was no crossfire at the time.

Shireen’s niece, Lina Abu Akleh, speaking outside the ICC said, “We expect the prosecutor will seek truth and justice and we expect that the court will deliver in holding institutions and individuals responsible of this crime accountable for killing my aunt.” The ICC had earlier expressed the view in 2021 that it had jurisdiction over situation in the occupied territory of Palestine. But many countries, including Israel, the United States, have refused to accede to the ICC, and the court cannot impose its verdict on countries, which do not recognise its authority.

Investigations carried out by the United Nations, Palestinians, Israeli human rights groups, have concluded that Shireen was killed by the Israeli military. The United States’ Justice Department had in November ordered for an independent Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) report on Shireen’s death as she is an American citizen.

Israeli leader Yair Lapid said on Tuesday that troops from the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) will never be questioned, in response to the news of Al Jazeera approaching the ICC. He said, “No one will interrogate IDF soldiers and no one will preach to us about morals of combat, not certainly the Al Jazeera Network. Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz had expressed condolences to Shireen’s family and said that Israeli military operates at “the highest standards”. Al Jazeera lawyer Dixon said, “The reason why Al Jazeera made this request is because the Israeli authorities have done nothing to investigate the case. In fact, they’ve said they will not investigate, that there’s no suspicion of a crime.”

But this is going to be a tough battle and the hopes of success are bleak. Much may depend on the US’s FBI investigation. But Israel had already dismissed the American decision that it was a mistake on the part of the Americans to have taken up the investigation. Israel’s Defence Minister Gantz said in November, “The decision taken by the US Justice Department to conduct an investigation into the tragic passing of Shireen Abu Akleh is a mistake.” Former justice department official and constitutional lawyer Bruce Fein said that the FBI would not have launched an investigation if it did not have “credible evidence”. And Israel may not wriggle out of the American pressure.

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