Israeli Civil Rights Group Petitions to Cancel Restrictions on Vanunu

Mordechai Vanunu

ACRI submitted a petition this morning on behalf of Mordechai Vanunu against the Minister of the Interior and the head of the Home Front Command to demand the cancellation of the severe restrictions that were imposed on Vanunu after his release from jail. ACRI is also asking the court to issue a ruling that the 1945 Defense Regulations (State of Emergency), and the 1948 State of Emergency Regulations, which enable the state to prohibit civilians from leaving the country, be cancelled. The petition was submitted by ACRI’s Chief Legal Counsel, Attorney Dan Yakir, and ACRI Attorney Oded Feller. In light of the extreme restrictions that were imposed on Vanunu, which constitute a harsh and daily punishment for him, ACRI requested that the court hold an urgent hearing on the petition.

The restrictions imposed on Vanunu include, not just the prohibition on leaving the country for a year, but also a series of other severe restrictions: Vanunu is not allowed to change his residency address without giving 48 hours advance notice; he is required to give 24 hours notice before leaving his city of residence, including details of the exact destinations he intends to visit and how long he will be in each one; he must give a day’s notice each time he intends to sleep somewhere other than his home; he is prohibited from being within 500 meters of any crossing point from which it is possible to leave Israel by air, sea or land; he cannot enter or try to enter any foreign diplomatic mission; and finally, he is prohibited from establishing contact with, or exchanging any information in any way, with foreign residents or citizens, or participating in any Internet chat sites. Any request to deviate from any of the stated restrictions must be submitted in writing to the officer in charge of the police headquarters in closest proximity to his residence at least 48 hours in advance.

Attorneys Yakir and Feller note in the petition that the severe restrictions that have been imposed on Vanunu enforce upon him “assigned residency” as he is not only condemned to social isolation, but the state is also totally ignoring his status as a prisoner who has been released from an extended jail term, and ignoring the unique position of Vanunu in particular. This is reflected in denying him the basic rights of flexibility, mobility and opportunity to integrate into society, to which he has re-emerged after his lengthy imprisonment. The petition also states that the restrictions condemn Vanunu to an inability to engage in social interaction with individuals who do not happen to hold Israeli citizenship. The attorneys also stressed that fact that, in light of the fact that Vanunu is part of a society that has turned its back on him, the only people who would seek out his company are denied him. The prohibition on Vanunu leaving the country not only imposes an unreasonable infringement on his freedom of movement but it also sentences him in such a way that he is unable to rehabilitate his life, as he is forced to reside in a society that abhors him, that sees him as a traitor and a dangerous enemy, and within which he has no chance to realize his desire to establish a family, find employment and earn a living, and take a legitimate part in public, democratic and open discourse.

Attorneys Yakir and Feller further emphasize in the petition that the authorities fear of “state security breaches”, the fear that lies at the heart of the restrictions on Vanunu, have been rendered meaningless over the last few years, and for the entire period following his release from solitary confinement, during which he was allowed to come into contact with other prisoners and family members (with whom he met throughout almost the entire period of his internment). Mordechai Vanunu, the petition stresses, repeatedly states at any given opportunity that, he has no intention of divulging any more information and that he couldn’t even if he wanted to. The information that he disclosed to the Sunday Times newspaper that was published in great detail relates to reality that existed over twenty years ago, to which Vanunu has nothing to add. In his position as a technician and not as a scientist in the nuclear research facility, his knowledge of the procedures used to produce nuclear materials is limited to the specific area he was involved in, which has already been published and made available to anybody who wishes to study it, and none of which provides any new information. The petition further sets forth that Vanunu’s ability to harm state security is, in retrospect, highly doubtful, and even more so when one looks to the future, which is what the severe restrictions are based upon. This is further demonstrated by the findings of the American researcher Thomas B. Cochran, who specializes in the research of nuclear weapon proliferation. He determined that Vanunu has no additional information that is liable to undermine the state’s policy of deliberate “obscurity”, that he has no information relating to operational policy, that he never had access to information related to weapons deployment (the production of launching methods), and even if he did, the information has become completely redundant as the years passed. He further concluded that it is highly unlikely that Vanunu possesses any additional information as to the design of nuclear weapons, or information related to experimentation with different warheads, and it is also highly unlikely to presume that he can expose any information related to intelligence sources, including names of individuals, and that if he did publish any individuals’ names that he encountered during his work at the facility, this would in no way endanger the security of the state. Even former senior security officials have expressed the opinion that the restrictions on Vanunu have no discernable purpose, and that he has no information in addition to that which he divulged in the 1980’s. Dr Frank Barnaby, an internationally renowned nuclear physicist, also supports this view.

The representing attorneys also state that the quotes taken from Vanunu’s letter, which were part of a presentation prepared by the Defense Ministry’s Chief of Security, and were used by him to justify the restrictions, are incomplete, taken out of context, are chosen selectively, and are open to interpretation. They represent nothing more than a collection of facts, and are not based on a firm foundation of factual evidence that is fitting and credible. There is nothing in the collected facts that indicate that Vanunu possesses any new or additional nuclear secrets that have yet to be published, or any intention or ability to harm state security. The psychiatric assessment referred to by the Defense Ministry’s Chief of Security, Yechiel Horev, as the basis of the perceived danger posed by Vanunu, was prepared on the basis of video and tapes and letters written by Vanunu, without the psychiatric specialist meeting with Vanunu at all!

In view of the aforementioned, and on the basis of numerous additional evidence, no other conclusion can be reached other than that the restrictions were imposed to ensure the policy of deliberate nuclear obscurity by Israel, while preventing legitimate public discourse on the issue. The restrictions, the petition further notes, reflect a desire for revenge, punishment, and deterrence, and not an attempt to protect Israel’s national security – the declared objective.

In addition to the claim that there is no justification for imposing restrictions on Vanunu, the attorneys also claim that the Supreme Court should cancel the 1945 Defense Regulations (State of Emergency) and section 6 of the 1948 State of Emergency Regulations (relating to leaving the country), upon which the restrictions are based. The regulations are not in accordance with the constitutional framework of the State of Israel, and the imposition of such restrictions, with no real justification in the case of Vanunu, does not comply with the State of Israel’s basic laws.

Related Links

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