Statement on the FBI’s Prospective Investigation into the Killing of Shireen Abu Akleh

FBI to Investigate the Killing of Journalist Shireen Abu Akleh

The International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) welcomes the decision of the United States’ (US) Federal Bureau of Investigation (‘FBI’) to investigate the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh on 11 May 2022. The Palestinian-American citizen, Abu Akleh, was a highly respected Al Jazeera journalist who was covering a story in Jenin when she was shot.

Investigations by the Associated Press, Bellingcat, CNN, the New York Times, The Washington Post, United Nations (UN) Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, B’Tselem, and most recently, Forensic Architecture and Al Haq, have clearly, conclusively and forensically shown that the shots that killed Abu Akleh came from the direction of the Israeli armed forces, the shots were fired deliberately, Abu Akleh would have been clearly visible to the Israeli forces and was clearly marked as “press”, and shots fired after she was hit prevented civilians from providing first aid to her.


Public statements made by the Israeli authorities before the internal inquiry by Israel’s armed forces concluded, put into serious doubt any purported commitment to transparency and independence.


Abu Akleh’s death adds to the number of Palestinian journalists systematically injured and killed by the Israeli armed forces, a matter documented by the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate (PJS) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), who together with ICJP, Bindmans LLP and Doughty Street Chambers filed a Communication to the International Criminal Court (ICC) on this matter in April 2022. A subsequent Communication on Abu Akleh’s killing was added to this Communication on 20 September 2022, by the same organisations, on behalf of Abu Akleh’s family, survivor Ali Samoudi, who was also shot and injured, and witness Shatha Hanaysha.


The announcement of the FBI investigation comes after a week of testimony heard by the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel. Hanaysha and Samoudi provided powerful testimony to the Commissioners, as did Naser Abubaker and Attaallah-Al Laham of the PJS and Abu Akleh’s niece, Lina Abu Akleh, and Counsel Tatyana Eatwell of Doughty Street Chambers.


The FBI investigation also comes after a statement, by the US Biden administration in early July, that Abu Akleh was likely killed by ‘unintentional Israeli fire.’ Such an assertion flies against the evidence compellingly presented to the UN and the public.


In response, the Israeli government have yet again asserted their determination to stand apart, if not above, global institutions, the US Government, and international law, and to continue to assume complete impunity, despite the fact that they admitted on 6 September 2022 that Abu Akleh was ‘likely killed’ by their forces. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz yesterday said Israel would refuse to cooperate with such an investigation.

It is a credit to Abu Akleh’s family, her colleagues Ali Samoudi and Shatha Hanaysha, supported by the PJS, IFJ, and their lawyers from Bindmans and Doughty Street Chambers, together with the compelling investigations conducted by the media, and Palestinian and Israeli civil society organisations, that the Biden Administration has not been able to turn its back on this case. The IFJ have campaigned tirelessly for justice not solely for Abu Akleh, but for all journalists working in their vital profession. We at ICJP are proud to stand with them and all those who seek to put an end to global impunity.  

15 November 2022.