Homocide and investigation in order for the case to be solved. The refusal to conduct a second investigation does not constitute a breach of the right to life.
Miller v. United Kingdom 25.07.2019 (no. 32001/18)
19-year-old murder and investigation.
The applicant complained under Article 2 of the ECHR (right to life) that the United Kingdom authorities had not conducted an effective investigation into the killing of his son and other members of the Royal Military Police (RMP) in Iraq in 2003.
The Court noted in particular that the authorities carried out several investigations into the deaths, and also a forensic report was drawn up, thus fulfilling the State’s duty under Article 2 to conduct an effective investigation.
The Court also considered that the Attorney General’s refusal to authorize a new investigation did not prove that the State failed to conduct an effective investigation or to take reasonable steps to ensure an effective independent investigation. Non-infringement of Article 2 of the ECHR.
The applicant, John George Miller, is a British national who was born in 1951 and lives in
Washington, the United Kingdom.
His son, Corporal Simon Miller was serving in Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion of the country in 2003.
Along with five other RMP members, he was killed after a crowd invaded a police station in Majar alKabir in Maysan Province, south east Iraq, on 24 June 2003. The RMP group had been working with
the local police force as part of a mission to restore and maintain law and order.
Between July 2003 and February 2005 several Army investigations took place, including a Joint
Commander’s investigation, a Special Investigation Branch investigation and a Board of Inquiry
probe. The Special Investigation Branch investigation resulted in a report to the Central Criminal
Court in Baghdad in April 2004 and seven suspects were eventually charged, though none were
convicted over the deaths.
A UK coroner’s inquest held in March 2006 returned a narrative verdict of unlawful killing. The
coroner found in particular that the RMP had had cordial relations with the local police and that
there had apparently been no signs of potential trouble at the location. It noted also that the RMP
men had not been supplied with iridium satellite telephones, despite earlier orders that all patrols
should have them. The coroner found that the men had been killed by members of an Iraqi crowd at
the police station.
In 2008 relatives of the families applied to the Strasbourg Court over a refusal by the Metropolitan
Police to investigate whether military personnel had failed to protect the soldiers, but the
application was rejected for failure to exhaust domestic remedies.
Requests by the applicant to the Minister of State for the Armed Forces for an independent inquiry
were rejected in late 2010 and July 2012. An action for judicial review by the mother of one of the
other RMP officers was rejected by the High Court, a decision that was upheld on appeal in July
2015. The Court of Appeal held in particular that the State’s Article 2 effective investigation obligation had been met by the Board of Inquiry and the coroner’s inquest and that issues surrounding the failure to issue the men with iridium telephones had also been dealt with.
In 2013 the applicant’s solicitor asked the Attorney General to authorise applications to the High
Court for a fresh inquest into the deaths of four of the six men, relying on alleged new evidence
about intelligence on possible violence in the area and on the timing and circumstances of the
deaths. In June 2017 the Attorney General refused to authorise the application for a fresh inquest, a
decision he upheld in January 2018.
THE DECISION OF THE COURT
The applicant argued that the domestic investigations had been inadequate and that there were
evidential leads which showed that key findings by the coroner had been flawed. He pointed in
particular to potential fresh evidence which army personnel could provide and to the failure of the
authorities to interview those people.
The Court reiterated its case-law on the requirement for an effective investigation under Article 2,
noting that such a step was a distinct procedural obligation inherent in that provision. Even where a
death had occurred in conditions of generalised violence, armed conflict or insurgency, all
reasonable steps still had to be taken to ensure an effective and independent investigation.
The Court observed that there had been seven investigations or reports on the deaths of the military
policemen. An inquest had also been held, returning a narrative verdict of unlawful killing, as well as
judicial review proceedings to seek a declaration that there had been an insufficient investigation
into the killings, in breach of Article 2. Those proceedings had been dismissed by the courts.
The Court’s task was to examine whether the domestic authorities had submitted the events which
had led to the deaths to the careful scrutiny required by Article 2.
It noted that the various British Army investigations had begun promptly. One of them in particular,
the Board of Inquiry, had received evidence from 157 witnesses, including oral testimony from over
100 people. The applicant had not challenged the independence of those investigations.
There had also been an independent judge-led investigation in the form of inquest proceedings in
2006, which the Court had found previously could satisfy the procedural obligation of Article 2 and in
which the coroner had also taken account of the results of earlier investigations.
Overall, the Court found that the investigations and the inquest had complied with the State’s duty
under the Convention for an effective investigation.
Nor did the Court consider that the Attorney General’s refusal to grant an authorisation for a fresh
inquest had shown a failure by the State to follow a reasonable line of enquiry or to take reasonable
steps to ensure an effective and independent investigation.
In particular and with respect to the proposed new evidence pointed to by the applicant, the
Ministry of Defence and the Attorney General had noted a lack of detail concerning the assertions of
one officer, and a lack of consistency between another officer’s assertions and the coroner’s
The Court observed that the nature and degree of scrutiny required under Article 2 depended on the
circumstances of a particular case. The deaths of the military policemen had occurred more than 15
years ago, in a difficult security situation, and had been the subject of proceedings led by a coroner
who had had access to all the available information.
The coroner had noted problems in determining the time of death and he had considered witness
statements by Iraqis, despite the difficulties in obtaining such testimony. The coroner’s findings had
been well-reasoned and based on extensive evidence and the fact that the identity of the killers had
not been determined did not mean that no effective investigation had taken place. Furthermore, the
Iraqi authorities had pursed criminal proceedings over the deaths.
The Court noted that the obligation for an effective investigation was one of means rather than
results. It found that none of the new evidence proposed by the applicant, which itself raised various
problematic issues, or the criticisms of the original inquest, cast doubt on the adequacy of the
State’s investigations or the coroner’s findings.
The State had thus carried out an effective investigation for the purposes of Article 2 and the
application was inadmissible as being manifestly ill-founded(echrcaselaw.com).