UK MPs call for independent probe into Abu Akleh killing

Labour’s shadow minister for the Middle East and North Africa has joined other members of parliament in calling for the UK government to demand an independent investigation into the killing of veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh that has triggered an outpouring of global condemnation.

Abu Akleh, 51, was shot in the head while on an assignment to cover an Israeli operation in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin. Al Jazeera Media Network has said she was “assassinated in cold blood” and called the international community to hold Israeli forces responsible.

“The Labour Party unequivocally condemns the violence by Israeli forces. International law and human rights must be upheld and we stand with all those demanding accountability for the killing of Shireen,” said Bambos Charalambous, the shadow foreign office minister for the Middle East and North Africa during a debate in the House of Commons on Monday.

“There must be an urgent, independent and impartial inquiry to secure this.”

Abu Akleh was wearing a flak jacket marked “Press” and a helmet, but was shot dead with a bullet to the head. She was a household name in the Arab world for her coverage of Israel and Palestine conflict.

Israeli police also attacked mourners during her funeral in occupied East Jerusalem on Friday, nearly forcing pallbearers to drop Abu Akleh’s coffin, adding to the show of solidarity and outrage.

Israeli forces seized Palestinian flags from mourners and later smashed the window of the hearse carrying Abu Akleh’s body and removed a Palestinian flag.

St Joseph Hospital in Jerusalem released security camera footage that showed Israeli forces storming the building where Abu Akleh’s body had been lying, and said 13 people were injured as a result of the raid.

Minister Vicky Ford said the UK supports an investigation that is “immediate, thorough, impartial”, but Rohan Talbot of the Medical Aid for Palestinians organisation noted on Twitter that it’s “not quite the same thing” as an independent probe.

“Remember the UK opposes ICC (International Criminal Court) investigation,” Talbot wrote.

Member of parliament Stella Creasy told parliament that independent fact-checkers have put together open-source evidence, “which points clearly to the responsibility of the Israeli forces for the murder of Shireen Abu Akleh”.

She stressed the need for not just an “impartial” inquiry, but for an “independent” inquiry to be conducted.

Labour party member of parliament Naz Shah said Israel continues to act with impunity. “This isn’t just a story of Shireen either, but many other journalists including the 55 Palestinian journalists killed since 2000,” the Labour party politician said in the House of Commons.

Member of parliament Afzal Khan said that “it took more than 24 hours for [Foreign Secretary] Liz Truss to issue a statement following the murder of Shireen Abu Akleh.

“What message does that send to those responsible for Shireen’s tragic murder? And in light of the history, why is the government not pushing for a full, independent inquiry?” Khan asked.

Israel has called for a joint investigation with the Palestinians, saying the bullet must be analysed by ballistics experts to reach a firm conclusion. Palestinian officials have refused, saying they do not trust Israel.

Human rights groups say Israel has a poor record of investigating wrongdoing by its security forces.

After earlier saying they would accept an outside partner, the Palestinians said late on Sunday that they would handle the investigation alone and deliver results very soon.

Meanwhile, US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield has called for justice for Abu Akleh.

“Today, I’m thinking of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh… I met her during a trip to Ramallah last summer and I instantly recognised that she was someone who was in the ring for all of the right reasons,” Thomas-Greenfield said speaking at Columbia University’s graduation ceremony on Sunday.

“There must be justice for her – and for all journalists senselessly killed while doing their jobs.”

‘There must be justice for her’

On Monday the top Catholic clergyman in Jerusalem condemned the police beating of mourners, accusing Israeli authorities of violating human rights and disrespecting the Catholic Church.

Latin Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa told reporters on Monday at St Joseph Hospital that the incident, broadcast around the world, was a “disproportionate use of force” against the Palestinian flag-waving crowd of thousands proceeding from the hospital to a nearby Catholic church in Jerusalem’s Old City.

The police attack, Pizzaballa told reporters, “is a severe violation of international norms and regulations, including the fundamental human right of freedom of religion, which must be observed also in a public space”.

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