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Palestinian foreign minister calls on ICC to probe Shireen Abu Akleh's killing

Riyad al-Maliki adds Abu Akleh's killing to dozens of cases filed with the International Criminal Court
A protester holds a picture of slain Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh during a demonstration in front of the Israeli embassy to support Palestinians, in Athens on 15 May 2022.
A protester holds a picture of slain Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh during a demonstration in front of the Israeli embassy in Athens, on 15 May 2022 (AFP)

The Palestinian foreign ministry announced on Monday that it formally asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.

"We have documented [the crime] and submitted a file about it to the ICC prosecutor alongside other Israeli violations," Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told the Anadolu Agency.

Maliki called on the ICC to add Abu Akleh's death to other crimes committed by Israel against Palestinians to facilitate an official investigation and bring Israel to accountability.

Abu Akleh, 51, was killed on 11 May while covering an Israeli military raid near the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank. Eyewitnesses, including MEE correspondent Shatha Hanaysha, have said that she was shot dead by Israeli forces.

The killing has been met with global outrage and calls for an independent investigation into what happened. More than 50 US lawmakers have also signed a letter calling on the American government to intervene and lead a probe into the killing, given Abu Akleh's US citizenship.

Mustafa Barghouti, general secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative, said that there was a need for strong international pressure on the ICC to initiate its work and investigate the crimes, including the killing of Abu Akleh.

"What we also need here is real pressure on Israeli establishment, a serious effort to establish sanctions and punitive acts against Israel, not to allow it to continue to be above international law."

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He also accused the ICC of a "double standard" in its handling of cases submitted by Palestinians.

"We have been providing information for the past 13 years but investigation has not been started yet. And in less than two months the ICC has sent 42 investigators to Ukraine," Barghouti, a former Palestinian information minister, said.

The ICC opens investigations in places where the domestic authorities are unable or unwilling to look into allegations of abuse. 

Israel maintains that it is not subject to the court's mandate because it is not a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the tribunal, and that the ICC cannot investigate abuses in the Palestinian territories because Palestine is not a state.

Last week, Israeli media reported that the country's military had no plans to launch a criminal investigation into the killing. 

Israel's military prosecutor has called on the army to conduct an in-depth investigation, but Israel's army said that if an Israeli soldier fired the lethal shot, it did not appear that the soldier was guilty of criminal misconduct.

"Given that Ms Abu Akleh was killed in the midst of an active combat zone, there can be no immediate suspicion of criminal activity absent further evidence," the Times of Israel reported on Monday, citing military advocate Yifat Tomer-Yerushalmi.

"The inability to inspect the bullet, which is being held by the Palestinian Authority, continues to cast doubt on the circumstances of Ms Abu Akleh’s death," the statement said.

In early April, the International Federation of Journalists, the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate and the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians filed a complaint with the ICC alleging that Israel's "systematic targeting" of Palestinian journalists and its failure to investigate their killings amounts to war crimes.

During the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos on Monday, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani criticised "double standards" in dealing with the case of Abu Akleh.

“We should not accept a world where governments have double standards about the value of people based on their region, race, or religion. We consider the value, of each European life to be just as precious as someone from our region,” he said.

Sheikh Tamim added that Abu Akleh's death should be seen in the same way as the seven journalists killed in Ukraine since March and other places in the world.

“[The] Palestinian-American journalist was killed two weeks ago in Palestine, and then robbed, of a dignified-burial. Shireen was covering the suffering, of the Palestinian people for decades, and our hearts, are broken,” he added.