IDF probe into Briton's death was a 'cover-up,' family tells London court

Family of documentary filmmaker killed in Gaza says IDF is actually doing nothing to investigate son's death.

James Miller 298 88 AP (photo credit: )
James Miller 298 88 AP
(photo credit: )
The family of James Miller, a British documentary filmmaker killed in the Gaza Strip in 2003, told a court here the Israeli investigation of his death had been frustrated through false statements, cover-up and delay. On the opening day of an inquest held to investigate the killing, Sophy Miller told the St. Pancras Coroners Court in North London the assurances given by the Israeli government that the death of her husband "was being fully and thoroughly investigated" were not true. "It has been the family that has had to produce, investigate and provide the evidence in order to bring any form of justice and to date he hasn't received any," Miller stated on April 3. James Miller was shot in the neck and killed in Rafah while filming a documentary on Palestinian children. An autopsy performed in Tel Aviv and a subsequent investigation by the Military Police found that he had been killed by IDF gunfire. Louise Christian, the solicitor for the Miller family, told The Jerusalem Post the London coroner's inquest "was the first independent investigation that there has been into the cause of James' death." The IDF inquiry had been "a sealed investigation," Christian said. "It did not consider eyewitness evidence, but only evidence from the soldiers" and the results "were never shared with the family." Miller told the 10-member jury that her husband had been holding a white flag illuminated by a flashlight and was walking toward an IDF patrol when he was shot. She testified the IDF "put out statements almost immediately saying that there had been a gun battle and that James had walked into a gun battle" and was "shot from behind" by a gunman. However, "we know from military reports that there had been no gun battle," she said. A film Death in Gaza was screened for the jury detailing the events surrounding the shooting. Miller testified that it was her belief that "First-Lt. Haib" of the Beduin Desert Reconnaissance Battalion shot her husband. During the afternoon session, Miller's sister, Anne Waddington, told the court that "Lt. Haib was the commissioner of the unit and the only person shooting that night." His conduct after the shooting was also questionable, Christian told the Post, claiming Haib "misled the [Israeli] inquiry" and "gave different accounts [of the events of that night] in six different interviews". Waddington also accused Haib of destroying evidence, saying, "He went back the next day to bulldoze the area to eradicate the evidence at the scene of crime." She also testified the British defense attach in Tel Aviv told the family not to expect justice from an Israeli investigation. Col. Tom Fitzallen-Howard told the Miller family it could not "expect to find any truth. It would be a sham enquiry" as the IDF "only spoke to their own soldiers," she said. Miller's other sister, Katie Barter, told the court the family had been "hampered at every turn" by the Israeli government. An investigation by the IDF found that Haib violated the rules of military engagement when he fired warning shots after coming under fire from gunmen. Judge Advocate-General Brig.-Gen. Avihai Mandelblit recommended Haib be courtmartialed, but an April 14, 2005 disciplinary hearing, led by Brig.-Gen. Guy Tsur of Southern Command, ruled the shooting justified. The court verdict will not "express a view on criminal or civil liability" Christian said, but will "give a verdict on how the death was caused" and state whether it was an "accidental death, open verdict or unlawful killing." The Israeli government is not participating in the proceedings. The London inquest continues through Friday.