British MP urges sanctions on Israel

Demands extradition of those responsible for deaths of UK citizens in Gaza.

james miller 298.88 (photo credit: Associated Press [file])
james miller 298.88
(photo credit: Associated Press [file])
A British legislator said on Tuesday that sanctions should be imposed against Israel if it does not hand over those suspected of responsibility for killing two British civilians. Gerald Kaufman, a Labour Party lawmaker who has frequently criticized Israel, called for trials either in Britain or before an international tribunal for those accused of killing International Solidarity Movement activist Tom Hurndall and filmmaker James Miller in 2003. Hurndall's family had already asked to extradite officers of the IDF's Southern Command to Britain to answer charges of war crimes under the Geneva Convention. The demand came after a London coroner's inquest on Monday found that Hurndall, 22, "was shot intentionally with the intention of killing him" by an IDF soldier on April 11, 2003 in Rafah. Another jury concluded last week that Miller, 34, had also been murdered. One soldier was convicted in Israel of killing Hurndall but no one was convicted in the Miller case. "One possibility is to ask for those who are accused of these murders to be brought to Britain to be tried in this country," Kaufman said in an interview with BBC radio. "The second is to put them before an international war crimes tribunal. If the Israelis don't agree to either of those then I think we have got to consider economic sanctions against Israel," he added. But Andrew Dismore, Vice Chairman of the Labour Friends of Israel group in Parliament, said such action would achieve little. "Obviously we have to have great sympathy for the families of the two British citizens who have been killed, but the fact remains that Israel is a democracy, it operates under the rule of law," Dismore said. An opponent of the military action against the Saddam Hussein regime, Hurndall traveled to Iraq in the spring of 2003 to serve as a "human shield." Evidence that Saddam was using Western peace activists to shield military installations prompted Hurndall to move on to the Gaza Strip to work with the ISM. Hurndall was shepherding Palestinian children out of the line of fire and was wearing a bright orange jacket to identify himself as a non-combatant when he was shot, his mother told the court. He died from his wounds nine months later and an IDF court found Sgt. Taysir Hayb of the Beduin Desert Reconnaissance Battalion guilty of manslaughter and sentenced him to eight years in prison in 2005. However, Hayb was a "scapegoat" for those higher up the military chain of command, Anthony Hurndall charged, saying he would ask the British government to see that "justice" was done. Imran Khan, the solicitor for the Hurndall family, told The Jerusalem Post that "the family is seeking assurances that appropriate action will now be taken against those further up the chain of command of the Israeli military in the Southern Command whom the family hold responsible in a systematic fashion for the death of their son Tom." They hope to "find a mechanism were they are brought to this country to stand trial for these serious allegations." In April 2004, Dr. Andrew Reid, the St. Pancras coroner, took jurisdiction of the case after Khan petitioned for the cases of Tom Hurndall and James Miller be heard before a single court. On Thursday, Reid presided over the inquest investigating the death of Miller, which found the British filmmaker had been murdered by the IDF in Rafah, in a shooting that took place three weeks after Hurndall was shot. After the verdict was announced, Reid said he would write to the attorney-general to see if there were any further legal action that could be taken over the deaths. "Given that two people died in these circumstances," Khan said, "the recurrence indicates a pattern." A spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in London said the verdict was being reviewed and a statement would be issued soon.