COMMENTS OF THE ISRAEL MINISTRY OF JUSTICE
ON THE 1994 AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL ANNUAL REPORT
With the publication of the Amnesty International 1994 Report, the Ministry of Justice wishes to comment on a number of issues contained therein which warrant clarification. Points relating to the IDF are addressed separately by the IDF Spokesman’s Office.
Israel strives to protect the human rights of all suspects in its custody. The Israeli Penal Code and the internal guidelines of the security forces explicitly and unequivocally prohibit torture. The General Security Services’ interrogation guidelines forbid ‘physical or mental torture, maltreatment of the person being interrogated, or the degradation of his human dignity.’
Under Israeli law, only freely and voluntarily given confessions are admissible as evidence. Upon receipt of an allegation of a coerced confession, the courts conduct a hearing to determine the admissibility of the statement. Complaints of misconduct during interrogation are examined by the Ministry of Justice. In cases where there is prima facie evidence that misconduct has occurred, administrative, disciplinary or criminal proceedings are instituted.
‘Prisoners of Conscience’
Israel does not arrest individuals for their beliefs and does not hold prisoners of conscience. Only those who are affiliated with illegal organizations advocating and employing violence are subject to arrest. According to Amnesty’s own definition, individuals who advocate violence cannot be construed as prisoners of conscience.
In 1988, Vanunu, a worker at the Atomic Research Reactor in Dimona, was tried and found guilty of three charges of espionage and sentenced to 18 years imprisonment. Vanunu ahs explicitly and repeatedly declared his intention to make additional secret information public at his first opportunity. In order to protect him from other inmates who might harm him in light of the nature of his crimes and to prevent him from revealing further secret information, the Commissioner of Prisons placed Vanunu in a cell by himself.
Vanunu’s prison conditions comply with both local and international law. Vanunu’s cell is larger than the standard cell in an Israeli prison and has its own adjoining lavatory and shower. Each day Vanunu spends two hours outdoors. He has a radio, a walkman and a television, and can receive any books and newspapers he wishes. His lawyer may see him in private at any time, and his family visits him regularly.
The practice of solitary confinement under reasonable conditions was addressed by the UN Human Rights Committee as well as the European Commission on Human Rights, and found not to be prohibited under international covenants and practice. United States courts have also held that solitary confinement, as such, does not violate the American Constitution’s protection against cruel and unusual punishment.
Vanunu has unfettered access to the Israeli courts, including the High Court of Justice. Vanunu may petition the courts to review the Commissioner of Prison’s decisions regarding the conditions of his incarceration.
Israel is presently involved in historic peace negotiations with the Palestinains. These negotiations have resulted in many significant changes, including the release of approximately 5,000 Palestinian prisoners over the past year, the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from Jericho and the Palestinian populated areas of the Gaza Strip, and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in those areas. We sincerely hope taht the continuing progress of the peace process will benefit the entire population of the Middle East, and that all parties involved will strive to maintain and advance the cause of human rights. We trust that Amnesty International will take note of these positive developments.