Letters   |   Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory

CPJ requests information on status of investigation into journalists' deaths

Dear Lieutenant General Yaalon:

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is writing to request information about the status of the Israel Defense Forces' (IDF) investigations into the shooting deaths of two journalists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 2003, and to reiterate our call for a thorough inquiry into these deaths.

According to CPJ research, Nazih Darwazeh, a cameraman for the Associated Press Television News, and James Miller, a freelance cameraman and film director, were killed by Israeli army gunfire within a two-week span during the spring of 2003. We understand that a military police investigation is already under way into Miller's death. However, the status of Darwazeh's case is unclear.

On the morning of April 19, 2003, Darwazeh was shot and killed in the West Bank city of Nablus while filming clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli troops. Shortly before he was shot, he had filmed an Israeli tank stranded at the corner of an alleyway.

Darwazeh and a number of other Palestinian journalists, who wore clothing identifying them as members of the press, were standing by a door in the alleyway. The journalists said that an Israeli soldier crouched under the tank and fired a single shot at the journalists from a distance of about 11 to 22 yards (10 to 20 meters). Darwazeh was struck in the back of the head and died instantly.

The IDF said that it was investigating the incident, but to CPJ's knowledge, no further details have been released. A more detailed account of the incident is attached to this letter.
Two weeks after Darwazeh's death, James Miller, a British freelance cameraman and film director with U.K.-based Frostbite Films, was fatally shot in the Gaza Strip in the late evening of May 2. Miller, an award-winning documentary filmmaker, was with a crew in the town of Rafah in southern Gaza near the Egyptian border filming an HBO documentary on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to eyewitnesses, Miller was shot and killed when he and two colleagues attempted to identify themselves as press to nearby Israeli troops in armored personnel carriers about 110 yards (100 meters) away from the house where the journalists had been filming. The journalists were wearing jackets and helmets marked "TV" and attempted to identify themselves to the troops by shouting and illuminating a white flag with a flashlight.

A detailed investigation sponsored by Miller's colleagues, friends, and family and conducted by Chris Cobb-Smith of the British security company, Chiron Resources Limited, concluded that the IDF soldiers "consciously and deliberately targeted" Miller and his crew. According to the investigation, the area where Miller's crew was operating was quiet for about an hour before he was killed. An Israeli military police investigation into the incident is under way, but the IDF's own investigation has not been made public. A detailed account of this incident is also attached to this letter.
The alarming circumstances of both men's deaths require that a comprehensive investigation be conducted, that the findings be made public, and that swift action be taken to punish IDF soldiers responsible for misconduct. Regrettably, the IDF's record of investigating cases in which journalists have been wounded or killed by IDF fire or physically abused by soldiers is dismal. Over the years, the army has failed to conduct thorough inquiries into such incidents, let alone punish those responsible for misconduct.

In CPJ's view, this failure suggests official indifference that could be interpreted by field commanders and soldiers that the IDF tolerates improper or even criminal behavior. In June 2001, a six-person CPJ delegation met with Israel's then ambassador to the United States, David Ivry, at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. Ivry promised to relay CPJ's concerns to the Israeli Foreign Ministry. On July 26, 2001, an Israeli Embassy spokesman said that then IDF chief of staff Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz "reiterated the standing orders concerning the safeguarding of journalists and called upon the army's commanders to strengthen the awareness of those orders throughout the ranks." At a minimum, these recent cases suggest a failure to adhere to these guidelines and fundamental rules of engagement that avoid harming civilians.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We look forward to your reply.


Sincerely,

Ann K. Cooper
Executive Director


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