Jason Deans, broadcasting editor
Friday April 15, 2005


The widow of British documentary film-maker James Miller, who was shot dead in Gaza two years ago, has condemned the Israeli army’s decision to acquit an officer of illegally using his weapon as a “mockery”.
Sophy Miller accused the Israeli army of having “no genuine will to uncover the truth” about her husband’s death, despite claiming to have mounted an exhaustive investigation into the fatal shooting in Rafah in May 2003.

The army’s decision came despite a military court’s recommendation last month that harsh disciplinary action be taken against the soldier.

“This new decision by the deputy chief of staff of the Israeli Defence Forces’s southern command makes a mockery of Israeli claims that they follow due process where IDF soldiers have acted criminally and outside their own rules of engagement,” Mrs Miller said.

“It shows that Israeli military activities in Gaza are carried out with impunity. We deplore the total failure to hold anyone responsible for the most serious breaches of Israeli rules of engagement.”

“We believed at the outset there was no genuine will to uncover the truth because the site of James’s death was not secured for forensic investigation, the site was destroyed by bulldozers three days after James’s death [and] it took the Israelis 11 weeks to impound the guns involved in James’s death,” Mrs Miller said.

“And now, almost two years after James was killed and after what the Israelis claim was an exhaustive investigation, our suspicions have been confirmed by this IDF decision.”

The officer who fired the shot that killed Miller is a first lieutenant in the Bedouin desert reconnaissance battalion and was commanding the unit at the time of the killing. He was acquitted by Brigadier General Guy Tzur, the head of the army’s southern command.

In an army statement issued to the family last month, military prosecutor-general Avihai Mandelblitt cleared the officer, who was not identified, of Miller’s death, saying there was no evidence to support the charge.

But Mr Mandelblitt did say the officer would be disciplined for misusing his weapon and for changing his story several times during the investigation.

“The court found [the officer] was operating in very difficult circumstances, including taking incoming fire from terrorists, and concluded that he acted appropriately”, the military official said.

Mrs Miller said she and her sister-in-law, Katie, were told by military investigators last month that the officer admitted to firing his weapon in Miller’s direction.

They said they were told that the officer acknowledged he knew when he fired the weapon that journalists were in the house and that the area surrounding it was well lit.

Miller, who won awards for his work in Afghanistan, was shot as he and colleagues attempted to leave the home of a Palestinian family in Rafah on May 2 2003, while filming for a Channel 4 documentary

The group claim they were carrying a white flag and called out to troops stationed nearby to inform them they were British journalists.

As they walked towards an armoured personnel carrier, a soldier fired and seconds later aimed a second shot at reporters, striking the 34-year-old father of two in the neck between his body armour and helmet.

Mrs Miller has said she plans to bring a civil action for damages against the Israeli army and to seek a judicial review of the decision not to prosecute the soldier responsible for murder.