Israel: No New Restrictions on Nuclear Whistleblower
Rights Watch press release
(New York, April 21, 2004) – Israel’s planned sweeping restrictions on nuclear whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu after he is released from prison breach basic principles of due process, Human Rights Watch said today.
Vanunu, a nuclear technician formerly employed at Israel’s Dimona weapons research facility, is scheduled to be released today after serving an 18-year prison term on treason and espionage charges, much of it in solitary confinement. He had been abducted by Israeli secret service agents in Italy in September 1986, after the Sunday Times of London published an account of Israel’s nuclear weapons program based on information he provided.
Avraham Poraz, Israel’s Minister of Interior, issued an order on April 19 forbidding Vanunu from leaving the country for one year after his release. Maj.Gen. Yair Naveh, head of the Home Front Command of the Israel Defense Force, citing the Defense (Emergency) Regulations from the British Mandate period, ordered Vanunu not to speak with anyone about his employment with the Dimona program. Vanunu is also prohibited from approaching foreign embassies or consulates, or conversing with non-Israelis. These restrictions will be in force for six months and are renewable.“When Mordechai Vanunu was tried and sentenced 18 years ago, the court made no provision for these additional punishments,” said Joe Stork, acting executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division. “Imposing these new restrictions now violates fundamental due process standards.”
Israeli officials have cited national security concerns in imposing the restrictions, and have withheld some of the evidence used to justify them from Vanunu’s attorneys, who are contesting the restrictions.
Human Rights Watch recognizes that Vanunu may still be subject to secrecy restrictions that he had agreed to as a condition of his employment at Dimona. The appropriate remedy, were he to violate those restrictions, would be further prosecution. But it violates international due process standards to punish him for offenses not committed and without receiving a trial.
“Security concerns cannot justify restrictions on Vanunu’s freedom of expression and movement that amount to punishment without a trial—or even an allegation of criminal conduct,” Stork said.
The Defense (Emergency) Regulations, issued in 1945 by the British Mandatory authorities, were subsequently incorporated into Israeli law. They allow for, among other things, military tribunals for trying civilians without right of appeal, banning publications, demolishing homes, and imposing curfews.
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