Killing of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh 'may constitute a war crime', UN experts say
The killing of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh earlier this week "could constitute a war crime", a group of high-profile UN human rights experts said on Friday.
The US-Palestinian journalist was "clearly performing her duties as a journalist" when she was shot in the head while reporting on an Israeli raid on the Jenin refugee camp on Wednesday, despite wearing a vest that clearly identified her as a member of the press. Several eyewitnesses said Abu Akleh was shot by the Israeli security forces.
The human rights experts roundly condemned the killing of Abu Akleh, calling in a statement for "clear, transparent and independent investigations into her death."
“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,” their statement read.
More than 40 Palestinian media workers have been killed by Israeli forces since the year 2000, according to official Palestinian figures, while hundreds more have been injured, targeted and threatened with violence while at work.
“The targeting of media workers in the Palestinian territories - and the repeated failure of Israeli authorities in conducting appropriate investigations - are both violations of the most basic rights”, continued the statement.
“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.”
Abu Akleh was laid to rest in Jerusalem on Friday - but not before Israeli security forces used batons, tear gas and horses to charge at mourners during the renowned journalist's funeral.
EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell condemned “the disproportionate use of force and the disrespectful behaviour by the Israeli police against the participants of the mourning procession”.
The EU calls for “a thorough and independent investigation that clarifies all the circumstances of Shireen Abu Akleh’s death that brings those responsible for her killing to justice,” Borrell said.