Systematic targeting of journalists- UN Human Rights Council event

Geneva, 21st September 2023- On Thursday, 21st September 2023, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) organised a parallel event on systematic targeting of journalists at the 54th session of the UN Human Rights Council.

The event was held on the anniversary of ICJP, IFJ and the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate’s joint submission to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The submission was sent in September 2022, which followed on from a previous April 2022 submission to the Court, requesting that the ICC Prosecutor launch an investigation into the systematic targeting, maiming and killing of journalists and destruction of media infrastructure in Palestine. Shireen was killed only days after the ICC prosecutor acknowledged receipt of the first complaint.

The September 2022 complaint was made on behalf of the family of Palestinian-American journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, and journalist Ali Samoudi and deals with the complaint to the International Criminal Court about the circumstances surrounding Shireen’s death and Ali’s shooting on 11 May 2022.

One year on from the submission, and over sixteen months since Shireen’s killing, ICJP co-organised and attended the event titled: “Justice for Shireen Abu Akleh: Protection of Journalists’ rights”. The event was held at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, as a parallel event of the 54th session of the UN Human Rights Council. ICJP Senior Counsel Ilora Choudhury spoke to a packed room with nearly 100 people in the audience. Attendees included representatives from the USA, UK, China, Palestine, Qatar, Norway, Malaysia, Australia, Ireland and the European Union to name but a few.  Reflecting on a year since the submission, Choudhury discussed ICJP’s role in the ICC submission and addressed what must be done to bring forward justice for Shireen Abu Akleh, and to protect the rights of journalists going forward.

The event was chaired by Jim Boumelha, Treasurer of IFJ. He was joined by Ilora Choudhury and Jonathan Purcell from ICJP, as well as Nasser Abu, Vice President of IFJ. The hybrid panel also featured remote speakers, including Tatyana Eatwell, a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers who worked on the ICC case, and Ali Samoudi, a fellow journalist who was shot at the same time as Shireen Abu Akleh. 

A video of a joint investigation by Al Haq and Forensic Architecture was also shown, which detailed how Shireen was deliberately targeted by an Israeli marksman, through a vivid and comprehensive reconstruction of the event. 

ICJP are committed to continuing to fight for justice and accountability for Shireen Abu Akleh, and to protect the rights of journalists to carry out their work without fear of attack.

“Journalists working on the frontline in situations of armed conflict must be protected and permitted do their jobs. That is a fundamental principle, and it is crucial to allow journalists to hold governments accountable and speak truth to power. By carrying out their dangerous work, journalists like Shireen protect others, and it is only right that they are protected as well.

Since Shireen was killed in May 2022, Israeli occupation forces have injured at least 103 journalists while they were working in the OPT. That’s one journalist hospitalised for a serious injury roughly every five days. The similarity between cases, the consistency and the sheer volume all point to one thing: a formal or informal policy of intentional targeting of journalists.”

Ilora Choudhury, Senior Legal Counsel at ICJP