yigal amir court298 88aj.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
In the wake of court rulings and decisions by the Israel Prisons Service and the Shin Bet, Yigal Amir, the convicted assassin of Yitzhak Rabin, was allowed a conjugal visit with his wife yesterday.
Amir and Trimbobler hold 1st conjugal visit
Amir was denied such visits in the past, on security grounds. The Prisons Service and security authorities were concerned that Amir might pass on information or instructions to associates outside the prison via his wife. Also on security grounds, Amir has been kept alone in his own wing of the prison, without contact with other prisoners.
There are number of disturbing aspects to this situation. The first is the suspicion that our judicial system seems to have no basis to distinguish between the assassin of a prime minister - that is, a murder committed on political grounds - from any other "security prisoner" who has committed murder. Therefore, in order to deny Amir privileges that other murderers receive, or to treat him more harshly, a security rather than a moral or more legally-founded rationale must be found.
This sort of improvisation creates problems in two directions. It raises the question of why "regular" murderers deserve conjugal visits, furloughs, and even having their life sentences reduced so they eventually go free. It also means that when it is no longer feasible to employ a security rationale, certain restrictions melt away, as is now happening with Amir.
As our legal correspondent Dan Izenberg's analysis on these pages points out, the state has never objected to Amir's "right" to marry and have children in principle. A wedding ceremony in person was denied on security grounds, as were conjugal visits, but the court and the Prisons Service agreed to serum from Amir being given to his wife so she could be artificially inseminated.
Why, however, should murderers, particularly an assassin like Yigal Amir, have such rights in the first place? Murderers are the ultimate deniers of rights. They deny their victims the right to life, and with it the right to a family, to freedom, and all other rights.
Amir denied all these rights to Yitzhak Rabin, the man, father, husband and grandfather. But he did more than that: He denied a nation its elected leader. He dealt a direct blow to our democratic system, and therefore in addition to his crime against Rabin personally, he committed a national crime against every Israeli.
Judaism, by mandating a fast day in mourning of the assassination of an appointed governor, Gedalya ben Ahikam, that is still observed after 2,500 years, clearly places such a murder in a different moral category. The legal system of the Jewish state, however, does not.
Though it is, of course, appropriate that the laws and jurisprudence of Israel are distinct from Jewish law, it does not seem that in this case our system has produced a morally superior outcome. It is difficult to accept that Amir has any rights beyond the right to live and breath - a right that was taken from Nazi official Adolf Eichmann, the only person ever executed by Israel.
In a judgment made earlier this year, Supreme Court Justice Ayala Procaccia wrote: "From the moment Amir was given a life sentence, his punishment was complete and final. From this point on, like all prisoners, he had severe restrictions imposed on his freedom and other restrictions on his human rights that were inherent to the loss of his freedom. Furthermore, he had additional restraints imposed on him related to discipline and order which are essential for prison life. He could also, to the extent that it would be found necessary, have restrictions imposed upon him based on state security requirements or other considerations of vital public interest. Beyond these, however, Amir is entitled, as is every prisoner, [to all other] basic rights."
In other words, the court ruled that, in general, no "right" can be denied Amir beyond his loss of freedom imposed by his jail sentence. Yet the exception for "considerations of vital public interest" is a crucial one that can and should be employed. The public interest demands that Amir's crime not be treated like any other murder, even like other "political" murders. At the very least, Amir should never be released, even for a moment - let alone permanently - from prison.