Statement by Michael P.D. Ellman to the Knesset Constitution, Law and Judiciary Committee
April 19, 2005
I have considered the charge sheet against MORDECHAI VANUNU dated 17 March 2005, and in particular the Restriction and Monitoring Order issued in respect of Mr.Vanunu, and am acquainted with the facts relating to his detention and his release in 2004. He is forbidden (unless he receives prior permission) inter alia "to maintain contacts or exchange information, by any means whatsoever, with foreign citizens or residents"; he was also ordered to give prior notice to the police of his intention to leave the boundaries of the city in which he resided (which I understand to be Jerusalem)
It is provided in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (I.C.C.P.R.- signed and ratified by Israel), article 14.7, that "No one shall be liable to be tried or punished again for an offence for which he has already been finally convicted in accordance with the law and penal procedure of each country." Mr. Vanunu had been tried and convicted for his offence in 1985/6, and sentenced to 18 years imprisonment, the whole of which he served without any remission. In the circumstances, in accordance with international customary law and the I.C.C.P.R., he was entitled to be released without any conditions, and any restrictions placed upon him at the time of his release, which had not been provided in the original sentence, were in the nature of a new punishment for the old offence, and as such illegal.
Accordingly the restriction on his movement within Israel is in breach of article 12 of I.C.C.P.R. ("Everyone lawfully within the territory of a State shall, within that territory, have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence".) Although there is an exception in article 12.2 for restrictions which are " provided by law" and "are necessary to protect national security, public order" etc. and are consistent with the other rights recognised in the Covenant, I understand that no evidence of any such necessity has been produced - and the law under which the Order purports to be issued is one which dates back to the times of the British Mandate, prior to the establishment of the State of Israel; it is certainly not "consistent with the other rights recognised in the Covenant".
Similarly the restriction that he should not "maintain contacts or exchange information, by any means whatsoever, with foreign citizens or residents" was in clear breach of article 19.2: "Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression...to seek, receive and impart information and ideas." While there is a proviso for such restrictions as are provided by law...for the protection of national security...", it is up to the state to show that these restrictions were provided by law, and were necessary. As most of the information he is alleged to have imparted was completely out of date, and/or was in the public domain, there is a heavy burden on the state to prove the need for any such restriction.
While there is clearly a great deal of bitterness, both on the part of Mr Vanunu after 18 years detention (more than half of it in solitary confinement), and on the part of many Israelis for what they see as a betrayal of their country, it has to be said that Mr.Vanunu has served his full sentence, and both according to international law and to common morality, should be allowed to continue his life without further impediment. Any restrictions such as those currently in force reflect very badly on the State of Israel, which appears to many outside observers to be actuated by malice.
MICHAEL P.D. ELLMAN, U.K. Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales President of the Commission on Rights of Defence, Union Internationale des Avocats, 1993-8 Former President, International Grouping of Lawyers, 1986-8 Hon.Secretary, North London Progressive Jewish Community Chair, Solicitors International Human Rights Group Officer of the International Board (vice-President 1992-2001) FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights) Member of Foreign Office Pro Bono Panel Carried out missions in 18 countries for FIDH, International Commission of Jurists etc. and written numerous reports.