Human rights and journalists’ organizations have filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC) against the systematic targeting of Palestinian journalists by Israel, according to multiple news reports on Thursday, April 28. The complaint notes the failure of Israel to carry out fair and thorough investigations into the killings of Palestinian media workers. The letter claims that these are violations of international law and constitute war crimes as per the Rome statute. Reports said that the complaint includes a list of incidents where journalists have been targeted and or even killed by Israel, as well as deliberate missile and artillery attacks on media buildings in Palestine.
The legal submissions to the ICC were reportedly filed in the beginning of April by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate (PJS), International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP), and human rights lawyers from the firms Bindmans LLP and Doughty Street Chambers. The Office of the Prosecutor (OPT) of the ICC formally acknowledged receipt of the complaint on April 25. The OPT will now consider the contents and merits of the complaint to decide whether the matter warrants further investigation and prosecution into the allegations of war crimes and violations of international law. A similar complaint regarding Israel’s deliberate targeting of journalists was also filed in December 2020 with the UN Special Rapporteurs (UNSR). It also included other forms of Israeli violations against Palestinian journalists, such as discrimination, violations of freedom of movement and restrictions on press accreditation.
The groups mentioned in detail the cases of Ahmed Abu Hussein, Yaser Murtaja, Muath Amarneh and Nedal Eshtayeh, journalists who were shot dead or seriously injured by Israeli army snipers while they were covering popular protests in the blockaded Gaza strip. Abu Hussein and Murtaja were killed in 2018, while photographers Amarneh and Eshtayeh were blinded after being shot in the eye in 2019 and 2015, respectively. All four were targeted despite the fact that they were wearing vests which were clearly marked ‘PRESS’. The complaint also mentions the Israeli bombings of the Al-Shorouk and Al Jawhara Towers in Gaza city in May 2021, which housed several news organizations at the time, including Alam News, Al-Hayat Newspapers, Mayadeen Media, Al-Bawaba 24, Palestine Newspaper, Al Kufiya Channel, Bawaba 24 and the Palestinian Media Forum, among several others.
Speaking in reference to their complaint, IFJ general secretary Anthony Bellanger said, “the targeting of journalists and media organizations in Palestine violates the right to life and freedom of expression. These crimes must be fully investigated. This systematic targeting must stop.”
The director of ICJP and partner at Bindmans LLP, Tayab Ali said, “A free press is the cornerstone of a democracy. The targeting of journalists in conflict zones anywhere in the world is unacceptable and must bring severe consequences for those that try to hide their crimes and violations by killing or maiming journalists. On 5 February 2021, the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber accepted that it has jurisdiction over the situation in Gaza, West Bank and East Jerusalem. We are confident that the ICC will investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of the crimes alleged in our complaint. There could not be a more important time than now for the ICC and international community to send a clear signal to States, that further their own interests through war crimes, that they will not have impunity but will instead be swiftly held to account for their violations.”
The groups in their statement stressed that Israel continues to act with impunity and targets journalists and other media workers without any regard for international law. During the 11-day bombing campaign in the Gaza strip in May last year, Israel attacked and destroyed several media buildings, including the al-Jalaa Tower which housed a number of media offices used by outlets including Middle East Eye, Al Jazeera, Associated Press and other local media organizations. At least two journalists were killed and roughly 100 others were injured.