Family of filmmaker killed in Gaza slam ‘attempts to delay’ court case

By Rachel Fletcher, April 25, 2008

Reports that Israel intends to pay compensation to the family of a filmmaker shot dead in the Gaza Strip in 2003 may be a “ruse” to delay proceedings, his family says.

James Miller was shot by a soldier while filming a documentary about the effects of the violence on children in Rafah. In 2006, a UK inquest returned a verdict of murder.

Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported that a government source claimed that Israel had offered to pay compensation of £1.5m (other reports suggested £1.8m) in exchange for a halt to efforts to extradite the soldiers involved. It claimed that British officials agreed to the deal.

But Mr Miller’s family are worried that the suggestion of settlement is a “ruse” to delay the Israeli defence submission. An “Israeli source” told the paper that the case would not become a legal precedent, saying: “The compensation deal is reasonable. We also reached an understanding that the legal aspect has been settled.

“The issue isn’t over yet, but we’re very close. The affair burdened our relations with the UK and we are glad that the family and the British government are willing to reach a deal.”

Mr Miller’s family begins civil action against Israel on May 13 which it says “will be the beginning of a lengthy process to decide culpability for the killing of James”.

His relatives said in a statement: “Based on our experience with the Israeli authorities over the past five years and the fact that the action will take place in an Israeli court — albeit a civil one — we do not have a great deal of confidence in a fair or just outcome.

“In the face of overwhelming evidence against Lt (now Captain) Heib, we have been advised that the state of Israel intends to invoke controversial ‘Act of War’ legislation as their defence.

“Having had an exhausting and expensive five-year fight, an out-of-court settlement might be considered, although no agreement has been reached.”

A UK Foreign Office spokesperson said: “The British Government consistently pressed the Israelis at every level to agree to a full and transparent military investigation into James Miller’s tragic death.”

Last updated: 4:53pm, June 8 2008