KNESSET CONSTITUTION, LAW AND JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CANCELS DEBATE OF
The International Campaign
to Free Mordechai Vanunu
The cancellation of a Knesset committee debate about the severe restrictions on nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu's liberty and human rights was roundly condemned today at a Jerusalem press conference. Prominent international observers of the Vanunu case who had come to address the Constitution, Law and Judiciary Committee also spoke out, and called for Vanunu's full freedom.
Rayna Moss, an Israeli with the International Campaign to Free Vanunu, explained that Knesset Member Issam Makhoul (Hadash) had requested weeks ago that the Committee convene to discuss the grave situation regarding Vanunu, which was agreed to by Committee Chairman Michael Eitan and scheduled for March 16. Makhoul continues to push the Committee to convene on this issue.
Moss said, "The cancellation means that one month before the restrictions are renewed or cancelled, not one government official has voiced a position. The attorney general has not addressed the issue. Security forces have not made any public statement and the Israeli Parliament has refused to take responsibility over this issue. This is coupled with a frivolous statement by three Israeli politicians who spent two hours at the Dimona reactor and announced that it was safe. Through both of these events the Israeli government is treating the Israeli public as children who can be told fairytales. Mordechai Vanunu is ultimately portrayed as the big bad wolf who needs to be isolated from society or as the little boy who cries the king has no clothes. We refuse to accept fairytales, we refuse to be silenced, and we demand Vanunu's freedom."
Mordechai Vanunu spoke about the restrictions that forbid him from leaving Israel and rebuilding his life, even though he served his complete 18 year prison sentence and there are no new charges against him.
Vanunu said, "I have no more secrets to tell and have not set foot in Dimona for more than 18 years. I have been out of prison, although not free, for one year. Despite the illegal restrictions on my speech, I have again and again spoken out against the use of nuclear weapons anywhere and by any nation. I have given away no sensitive secrets because I have none. I have not acted against the interests of Israel nor do I wish to. I have been investigated by the police again and again, and re-arrested twice, but they have found nothing. I have done nothing but speak for peace and world safety from a nuclear disaster...
"I did not seek to harm Israel, but rather to warn of an enormous danger. I do not seek to harm Israel now. I want to work for world peace and the abolition of nuclear weapons. I want the human race to survive."
Vanunu also said, "I'd like to address world leaders here for the Holocaust Museum ceremony. They have come to commemorate the Jewish holocaust which took place 60 years ago but they must acknowledge that the threat of a future holocaust is the nuclear holocaust."
Also speaking at the press conference were Daniel Ellsberg (U.S.A.), author and former Pentagon employee who in 1971 leaked the Pentagon Papers; attorney Jennifer Harbury (U.S.A.), author and director of the U.U.S.C. STOP Torture Campaign; and attorney Fredrik S. Heffermehl (Norway), author and Vice President of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms.
The three had travelled to Israel from the United States and Norway on the basis of the understanding that they would testify today at the hearing of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Judiciary Committee, only to arrive in Israel and learn that it had been cancelled.
Daniel Ellsberg explained that he and Vanunu were both the first people in their countries to be prosecuted for giving secret information to the press. He said, "Mordechai Vanunu has no secret information. He has one huge secret which he revealed on April 21 last year - That after 18 years of imprisonment and solitary confinement and mistreatment a person can still come out sane, articulate, compassionate. This is the secret that no regime wants its citizens to know." He added, "Mordechai is a prophet, and the scriptures say that prophets are never appreciated in their own country."
In speaking of the need to lift the restrictions against Vanunu, Ellsberg stated, "At the time of the American revolution, when we freed ourselves from the British empire, we didn't retain any of their laws and regulations. The time has come for the state of Israel to also free itself from the State of Emergency regulations of the British Empire."
Citing several articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, U.S. human rights attorney Jennifer Harbury concluded that "the restrictions that have been placed upon Mordechai Vanunu represent extraordinary infringements of his rights".
Harbury stated, "For the last several years of his imprisonment, Mr. Vanunu was permitted to mingle with other prisoners. In addition, he has now been out of prison for nearly a year, and despite the restrictions, has courageously spoken publicly again and again for nuclear abolition and human rights. If he possessed any additional information, or if he wished to harm Israel in any way, he has had numerous opportunities to do so. Yet he has not. Time itself has proven the government claims of security risks are frivolous. Keeping him here does not change the equation....
"By refusing to let Mr. Vanunu go in peace to start a new life after so much suffering, Israel casts itself as both cruel and vindictive. He is not safe here and the authorities have contributed to this problem by vilifying him unjustly. Moreover, Israel does not come to this matter with clean hands. Mr. Vanunu was illegally kidnapped, battered, drugged and then subjected to extraordinary psychological torture for over 11 years. There has been no justice for any of these wrongs. The time has come for the government, too, to set its house straight by showing reason and balance here."
Fredrik Heffermehl said, "Avoiding discourse and discussion does not remove the problems - openness and discussion can help us find ways out. That was the idea behind Vanunu´s action. The time is ripe for the Israeli public to consider why so many people all over the world consider Vanunu as the leading Israeli in the worldwide political struggle against nuclear extinction."
The restrictions that were imposed on Vanunu (prohibiting him from traveling abroad, contacting foreign citizens and media, and controlling his movement inside Israel) severely curtail his civil and human rights. They are based on the 1945 State of Emergency Regulations, first introduced in Mandatory Palestine by the British Mandate and since then they have been continually renewed by the Israeli Parliament (Knesset). The State of Emergency Regulations enable the State to penalize people without trial, and can be renewed indefinitely. In July 2004 Israel's Supreme Court rejected Vanunu's appeal of the restrictions.
The restrictions will next be reviewed on April 21, the one year anniversary of Vanunu's release. At that time, an international delegation organized by the International Campaign to Free Mordechai Vanunu will come to Israel to call for lifting the restrictions and allowing Mordechai Vanunu to leave Israel, as he wishes.
In Israel: Rayna Moss:
Tel. 972-50 -7368236
In the USA: Felice Cohen-Joppa,
In Britain: Ernest Rodker,
In Norway: Fredrik Heffermehl