Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Israel pays 1.5m pounds to family of British journalist killed in 2003 Gaza shooting



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Last update - 15:29 01/02/2009


Israel pays 1.5m pounds to family of British journalist killed in 2003 Gaza shooting

By Akiva Eldar


Following lengthy legal discussions, Israel recently paid approximately 1.5 million pounds in damages to the family of British cameraman James Miller, who was killed in Rafah in May 2003.


The British Ministry of Justice said it would not file legal claims in the case, or requests to extradite the Israel Defense Forces officer and troops said to have been involved in the incident.


Attorney Avigdor Feldman, who represented the Millers in Tel Aviv District Court, would not say how much money the state agreed to pay them in damages. He did tell Haaretz that the sum was higher than the state's opening offer of 1 million pounds.


The payment is apparently the highest damages award that the state has ever paid a foreign citizen injured in the course of military activity.


None of the soldiers who had been implicated in the shooting faced criminal charges. An IDF disciplinary court that reviewed the firing officer's conduct cleared him of violating regulations on shooting.


The proceedings at the Tel Aviv court began when former British attorney general Lord Peter Goldsmith, still in office, threatened to initiate criminal proceedings in the U.K. against the soldiers said to have been involved in the incident.


Goldsmith reportedly intended to charge the soldiers with "deliberate manslaughter" and request their extradition. In June 2007, he told his Israeli counterpart, Menachem Mazuz, that unless progress is made on the issue of compensation, there will be no alternative but to prosecute the soldiers for allegedly violating the Geneva Conventions.


A British jury, whose members reviewed an earlier lawsuit by the Millers against the State of Israel, determined that the cameraman - who left behind a wife and two children - had been murdered. Miller's death and Israel's approach to the case, perceived by some as attempts to shirk responsibility for it, were the source of pungent and ongoing criticism by members of the media in the U.K.


Miller, 34 at the time of his death, was an acclaimed television journalist when he was killed. He arrived in Rafah with his crew to prepare a documentary. The IDF said it found his death unfortunate, adding that "the arrival of photographers to war zones during exchanges of fire is dangerous to all parties."


The IDF previously maintained that it is impossible to determine whether Miller was shot by Israelis or Palestinians. A British expert said this was not true. Witnesses at the scene said the area where Miller was shot had been quiet before his slaying.


The British attorney general said that delays in the investigation by the Military Police's unit for investigating serious crimes, the Investigative Military Police, allowed its detectives to doctor evidence by replacing the rifle barrels of the soldiers on patrol that day in the sector where Miller had been shot. Britain's highest levels of government relayed requests to their Israeli counterparts to try the soldiers for Miller's death and compensate the family.


Miller was posthumously awarded the Emmy in 2004 for his film, "Death in Gaza." Miller had intended to tell the story of the Middle East conflict from the perspective of Palestinian and Israeli soldiers, but his death resulted in the film centering on his slaying.


Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


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