Silencing and dehumanization
The trial of Yigal Amir took a record short time; the court and the press had a common objective – to prevent Amir from being heard and pervert his public image. According to Dr. Ariella Azulai “the court system aimed to tear Amir down as an independent actor with his own voice and rebuild him as an object of the system, completely under its power. In another words, a condition precedent to putting Yigal Amir on trial was concealing his own words and replacing them with words uttered on his behalf with suitable characteristics given by suitable experts.”
Both at trial a real person was successfully replaced by two conflicting images: a cold-blooded religious fanatic endowed with extraordinary charisma and power of persuasion (therefore he needs to be kept in isolation) and a manipulated dummy (that’s why the blame for Rabin’s murder is placed with instigating rabbis, right-wing ideologues or, alternatively, agents of the SHABAK, who exercised influence on Yigal Amir). At first glance these two images seem entirely incompatible. However, they peacefully co-exist in public discourse: journalists, courts, public figures cherry-pick whatever image that suits their current needs.
Discrimination in detention: conditions “can’t get any worse”.
The conditions of Yigal Amir’s imprisonment are far more severe than the conditions of imprisonment for all other prisoners in Israeli penal system, including those sentenced to life. When Zeev Rosenstein, one of the leading figures in the Israeli criminal underworld was transferred to the Ohalei Kedar prison in Beer Sheva (where Yigal spent seven years), he filed a complaint with the court, calling the conditions of his imprisonment “awful and shameful” and “rock bottom level”. His complaint contained words “the conditions in which I live are beyond criticism and can get no worse”.
The court granted Rosenstein’s request and he was transferred to another prison.
Prolonged detention in solitary confinement
One of the most egregious examples of injustice directed at Yigal Amir is his prolonged detention in solitary confinement. He has been detained in this manner for 24 years, and the first eleven years he spent under constant video surveillance. According to multiple studies conducted in different countries, prolonged solitary confinement can harm the detainee’s health and a large degree of this harm is irreversible. That is why prolonged detention in solitary confinement is a form of torture and prohibited by The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which Israel has ratified. Its application has routinely been condemned by the UN Committee Against Torture. Israeli legal norms also seek to limit the application of solitary confinement: the Bureau of Prisons Manual, while allowing the prisoner’s isolation for reasons of state security, maintenance of an orderly prison environment and prisoner safety or to prevent the commission of a crime, call isolation “a measure of last resort” (Appendix 04.03.00, Subpart 1a). Yigal Amir’s solitary confinement is by far the longest in Israeli penal practice. Follow the link below to view legal and medical material regarding the impact of prolonged solitary confinement on prisoners’ health.
Yigal Amir Law – retroactive law aimed at punishing a specific individual, contrary to Israeli legal norms
In 2001 Knesset adopted a law that prohibits the parole commission of the justice ministry to recommend parole, amnesty or sentence reduction to anyone confined for murder of a Prime Minister, thus taking away the right to be considered for parole granted to all prisoners serving a life sentence. This law is unique because it applies to a single individual. It was adopted against the backdrop of multiple polls that showed a large portion of Israeli public favoring early release of Yigal Amir. The Knesset members made to effort to hide the fact that their goal was to single Amir out and have him sit in prison for the rest of his life. The current President of Israel Reuven Rivlin (back then communications minister) told reporters that his law (that he voted for) does not deserve to be on the books. “I voted for this law contrary to my professional judgment simply because I wanted to avoid being accused of murdering Itzhak Rabin”.
The Struggle for the Unalienable: Right to Get Married
As soon as the intention of Yigal Amir and Dr. Larissa Trembovler became public knowledge, an active public campaign began with the aim of preventing the marriage from occurring even though legal experts roundly denied that this could be legally done. The media representatives openly addressed government officials with questions “Can’t this be prohibited? Can’t something be done? Will he really be allowed to get married?” An attempt was made to pass another retroactive and personal law denying one man the right every other Israeli has – to get married. Thus a public climate was created. It is hardly a surprise that the Bureau of Prisons director Yakov Ganot denied Amir’s request to get married before he even received it and contrary to the opinion of his own in-house counsel (the latter later changed his opinion to suit the boss’ wishes). Ganot did not cite to any law that served a basis to his decision. Rather, he cited to some mysterious ethical (more like ideological) norms, that soon gave way to state security considerations that SHABAK obligingly provided. Not a single legal authority found it necessary to question the language that seemed to have been tailored to the situation retroactively.
The marriage of Yigal and Larissa became a reality only because they utilized an ancient Jewish custom “marriage by proxy”. The rabbinical court held this marriage valid, but the Amir family had a long difficult struggle with the Ministry of Interior that refused to acknowledge them as a married couple.
It took Yigal Amir three years to secure the right to get married and procreate – the right guaranteed to all other prisoners in Israel. It must be noted that throughout this time Israeli media not only did not object to this lawlessness and politically based persecution, but actively abetted it, turning from “watchdogs of democracy” into “guard dogs of those in power and their interests”.
Translated by Rina Gonzalez Gallego