Reporters Without Borders Files ICC War Crimes Petition Over Israel, Hamas Killing of Journalists

“Since 2000, we have not seen a war begin with so much violence against journalists,” said the group.

By Julia Conley. Published 11-2-2023 by Common Dreams

Palestinian journalists Muhammad Sobh and Saeed Al-Taweel were killed during their work by Israeli airstrikes on October 10, 2023 in Gaza City, Gaza Photo: Ahmed Shameya/X

The international press freedom group Reporters Without Borders on Wednesday called on the International Criminal Court to formally investigate the deaths of nine journalists who have been killed in the Israel-Hamas War that began on October 7, noting that at least 34 reporters have been killed so far in the conflict.

“No other 21st century war has begun in such a deadly manner for reporters,” said Reporters Without Borders, also known as RSF. “At least 12 of them have been killed in connection with their work, most of them by Israeli strikes in Gaza.”

The nine journalists mentioned in the complaint filed with the ICC include eight Palestinian reporters who the group says were killed in Israel’s airstrikes in civilian areas in Gaza. An Israeli reporter who was killed while covering the surprise attack by Hamas in southern Israel on October 7 was also included.

The killings “constitute war crimes under Article 8.2.b. of the Rome Statute” of the court, said RSF in its complaint, because the bombardment of civilian areas in Gaza meets the “international humanitarian law definition of an indiscriminate attack.”

“Even if these journalists were the victims of attacks aimed at legitimate military targets, as the Israeli authorities claim, the attacks nevertheless caused manifestly excessive and disproportionate harm to civilians, and still amount to a war crime under this article,” the complaint reads.

The death of the Israeli journalist constitutes “the willful killing of a person protected by the Geneva Conventions,” the group added, “which is a war crime under article 8.2.a. of the ICC’s Rome Statute.”

In 2021 the ICC’s prosecutors launched an investigation into Israel’s alleged war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories dating back to 2014, when 1,462 Palestinian civilians were killed in a conflict between Israel and Hamas that lasted nearly two months.

RSF has filed three ICC complaints since 2018 regarding violence perpetrated by Israeli soldiers against journalists, including one pertaining to reporters killed and injured in the Great March of Return protests in 2018 and one regarding Israeli airstrikes on more than 20 media outlets in Gaza.

In its latest complaint, the group also asked the ICC to probe the “deliberate, total or partial, destruction of the premises of more than 50 media outlets in Gaza” since the current violence began less than a month ago.

“The scale, seriousness, and recurring nature of international crimes targeting journalists, particularly in Gaza, calls for a priority investigation by the ICC prosecutor,” said Christophe Deloire, secretary-general for RSF. “We have been calling for this since 2018. The current tragic events demonstrate the extreme urgency of the need for ICC action.”

Of the 12 journalists killed in connection to their work since October 7, RSF counted 10 who were killed in Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.

Those killed include Mohammed Ali, a radio reporter for the channel Al Shabab who was killed in an airstrike on October 20; Palestine Today director Mohammad Baalouche, who was the victim of a targeted attack on his home on October 17; and photojournalist and fixer Rushdi Sarraj, who was killed in a targeted attack on October 23.

Deloire called on Israel to end its attacks on Gaza, “which amount to war crimes” against the roughly 2.3 million Palestinians who live in the blockaded enclave.

“Since 2000, we have not seen a war begin with so much violence against journalists,” said the secretary-general. “Israel’s attack on Gaza in response to the massacre committed by Hamas will go down in the history books and in the annals of journalism as one of the cruelest episodes for reporters, as well as for all other civilians. The Israeli government should realize that horror does not justify horror. The state of Israel will have to take responsibility before history for the deaths of journalists on a scale unknown in the 21st century.”

“This disastrous toll adds a new blood-colored stain to an already tragic story,” he added. “More journalists have been killed in the course of their work in two weeks in the Middle East than in Ukraine since February 2022 as a result of the Russian invasion. This is the sad reality of a grim toll.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).

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