Israel receives new British request over 2003 journalist killing


Israel said on Sunday it has been asked by Britain to reopen the case of the 2003 killing of a British journalist in Gaza by suspected Israeli fire.

A month and a half ago we received a new request from British justice authorities,” the justice ministry said in a statement, without elaborating.

“This request is being examined by organisations and institutions concerned and a response will be provided in accordance with the calendar in use by Israeli institutions,” it said.

The statement was released in the wake of a report by the liberal Haaretz daily, which said that the British attorney general had asked his Israeli counterpart to reopen the case of journalist James Miller, shot dead in the Gaza Strip in May 2003.

Haaretz said British Attorney General Peter Goldsmith, who has since been replaced in his post by Baroness Patricia Scotland, notified Miller’s family of his action in a letter.

In it, he said that a British coroner “wrote to me and invited me to consider instituting criminal proceedings in the United Kingdom against… members of the Israeli Defence Forces… for an offence of willful killing contrary to section I of the Geneva Conventions Act 1957.”

Haaretz said that if the British authorities decided to open such criminal proceedings, London could file an extradition request for the Israeli soldiers involved — a move that could sour relations between the two countries.

A spokesman for the attorney general’s office in London confirmed that a letter had been sent to the Israelis.

“We have not yet had a response from the Israeli attorney so we’re not really in a position to comment further,” a spokesman for the attorney general’s office said on condition of anonymity in line with government policy.

Any extradition would be a matter for the Home Office, he added.

Miller, an award-winning television journalist, was shot dead in the town of Rafah near the Egyptian border as he was filming a documentary on the Israeli army’s destruction of hundreds of homes in the Palestinian territories.

The 34-year-old’s crew said they were carrying a white flag and identified themselves as British media to troops in the area.

As they left a Palestinian home they were fired upon, and a bullet struck Miller in the neck between his helmet and bullet-proof vest, which was marked with the letters “TV.”

An autopsy carried out in Israel with a British doctor present found that the freelance journalist was hit by a bullet from an M-16 assault rifle fired by soldiers facing him.

In April 2005, the Israeli army cited lack of evidence in a decision not to take any action against the officer accused of responsibility over the fatal shooting, although it did chastise him for “allegedly firing his weapon.”

A year later, a coroner’s jury in Britain ruled that Miller had been murdered.