UN human rights experts on Friday condemned the killing of veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in the occupied West Bank and called for a prompt, transparent, thorough, and independent investigation into her death.
Abu Akleh was shot dead on Wednesday near the entrance of the Jenin refugee camp while reporting on an Israeli raid, said the experts.
Abu Akleh and other journalists present in the area wore protective gear, clearly identifying them as media workers.
The experts said Abu Akleh’s killing continued 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, they said, without giving specific locations.
Women Palestinian journalists also regularly experience violence in their work just for being journalists, the experts said.
“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 in their statement.
Prompt, independent investigation urged
“We demand a prompt, independent, impartial, effective, thorough, and transparent investigation into the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh.”
They said this should be done in full compliance with the Revised UN Manual on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary, and Summary Executions.
“We urge the Israeli and Palestinian authorities and other stakeholders to cooperate with such an investigation.
“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,” they warned.
“The International Federation of Journalists filed a formal submission to the International Criminal Court on the systematic targeting of journalists in the occupied Palestinian territory: Abu Akleh’s killing should be part of the ongoing investigation,” the experts said.
Role of journalists
“The role of journalists, especially in a context of heightened tension and marked by continuous abuses, like the occupied Palestinian territory, is critical,” the experts said.
“Lack of accountability gives carte blanche to continue the litany of extrajudicial executions. The safety of journalists is essential in guaranteeing the freedom of expression and media freedom.”
The experts said that violence has increased in the occupied Palestinian territory in recent years.
Last year marked the highest number of Palestinian deaths resulting from confrontations with Israelis since 2014 and 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 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 include Francesca Albanese, special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967; Morris Tidball-Binz, special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions; Reem Alsalem, special rapporteur on violence against women; and Irene Khan, special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression.