(Communicated by the IDF Spokesman)
On May 2, 2003, at approximately 23:00, British journalist James Miller was killed by gunfire near the Philadelphi Route in Rafah, in the Gaza Strip.
At the same time, in the area where Mr. Miller was shot, an IDF force was engaged in the exposure of a tunnel suspected to have been used by Palestinian terrorists in order to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip. During that day, IDF soldiers were fired upon by Palestinian terrorists.
In accordance with IDF policy regarding the investigation of operational incidents occurring during combat, a field investigation of Mr. Miller’s death commenced shortly after the incident. The findings of the field investigation were reviewed by the Military Advocate General who launched a full criminal investigation of the incident by the Military Police.
For over a year and a half, the Military Police conducted a thorough and intensive investigation of the circumstances of Mr. Miller’s death. In light of the severity of the incident, the investigation was entrusted to a senior and experienced team of Military Police investigators. The Military Police invested unprecedented efforts in this complex investigation, and employed numerous and varied investigative techniques, including ballistic tests and audio analysis by Israel Police experts, satellite imagery analysis, and extensive lie-detector testing. At the request of the Military Advocate General, the investigation was expanded in several directions, in order to ensure that the investigation produce a full and accurate picture of the incident. The findings of the Military Police were recently submitted to the Military Advocate General’s Corps for review.
Today (March 9, 2005) the Military Advocate General, Brig. Gen. Avichai Mandelblith, met with the Miller family to inform them of the findings made by the Military Police and of the decisions made on the basis of those findings.
The findings of the Military Police show that an IDF lieutenant, the commanding officer of the IDF force at the site, allegedly fired his weapon in breach of IDF Rules of Engagement. However, it is not legally possible to link this shooting to the gunshot sustained by Mr. Miller. Analysis of the Military Police dossier, particularly the indisputable forensic evidence (namely the ballistic tests and audio analysis), leads to the conclusion that the evidence available does not provide a reasonable chance for conviction as required under criminal law. Therefore, the Military Advocate has concluded that a criminal indictment cannot be substantiated in this case.
Nevertheless, the Military Advocate has decided to instruct the Chief of Staff of the Southern Command to initiate disciplinary proceedings against the aforementioned IDF officer, for misuse of his firearm.
Additionally, in light of apparent misconduct by the same officer during the field investigation and Military Police investigation of the incident, the Military Advocate has decided to recommend that harsh command measures be taken against the officer for this behavior by the Commanding Officer of the Southern Command.
In accordance with commitments previously made to the Miller family that the IDF treatment of the incident would be conducted in a fully transparent manner, the Military Advocate General reiterated to the family members with whom he met today, that it will be possible for the family and its attorney to peruse the Military Police dossier and the legal opinion prepared by the Military Advocate regarding the case.
The IDF expresses its deepest condolences to the Miller family for their tragic loss.