Second quarter of 1999

International Appeal by ' Alternative Nobel ' Prizewinners for the Release of MORDECHAI VANUNU

Following is the text of a


adopted by acclamation at a meeting celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the RIGHT LIVELIHOOD AWARD (Alternative Nobel Prize) in Salzburg, Austria, on 1 June 1999

[Posted 07/06/1999]

The election of a new Israeli government on the threshold of the new millennium raises hopes of significant steps towards a more tolerant, human, democratic and transparent society in the Middle East. Our expectations are focused on social, economic and humanitarian issues in all countries, but our particular concern here is focused on Israel, where one of our colleagues is imprisoned.

We, 58 Laureates of the Right Livelihood Award (Alternative Nobel Prize) from over 30 countries have been meeting in Salzburg, Austria, to mark the 20th anniversary of the Award. We are teachers, scientists, rural workers and activists for peace and social justice in all continents and we hereby unanimously call on the government of Israel to:

  • release immediately the political prisoner Mordechai Vanunu, who is our fellow RLA Laureate;

  • approve the organisation of a regional conference under the auspices of the United Nations to consider the feasibility and potential benefits of a project to make the Middle East a region free of weapons of mass destruction.

Successive Israeli governments - like many others - have equated weapons with security and therefore believe that more weapons mean more security. But what if they are wrong? What if the possession of more nuclear weapons equals less security and actually poses an increasing threat to the country by provoking others to enter the arms race?

The Knesset has never debated the government's decision to acquire nuclear weapons. Nor has it considered the advantages for national security that could accrue from a treaty banning nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction from the region. We note that the past and current weapons programme also has serious environmental and health implications for the Israeli people. Current reports of a risk to the Dimona plant posed by the Y2K computer bug are only one example. The issue of radioactive waste management - which raises particular difficulties in a country with such a small land surface and which will have consequences for thousands of years to come - also needs to be addressed in open debate.

We, the assembled Laureates of the Right Livelihood Award call on the government, on the leaders of all political parties and on individual members of the Knesset to initiate a full-scale parliamentary debate on the political, strategic, environmental and health implications of Israel's nuclear weapons programme. The best interests of the people of Israel for a secure and sustainable future would, we believe, be reflected in an agreement to rid the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction, many of which the country cannot control as long as they exist.

Mordechai Vanunu considered that as a nuclear technician at Dimona he was in a particular position and morally obliged to do something which he felt would ultimately increase security and the basis for peace in the region. By releasing information on the extent of the Israeli nuclear weapons programme - doubtless an illegal act in itself - he made it possible for the issue to be debated by the international community on the basis of facts rather than suspicions.

Vanunu is far from alone in his analysis and convictions. A broad range of politicians, analysts and citizens have by now come to the same conclusion - that long-term stability in the Middle East will only be reached if the region is cleansed of weapons of mass destruction. We are only adding our voices from 40 countries to the thousands which have already called for his release.

Vanunu has paid a very high price for his convictions. Twelve years after the Right Livelihood Award gave him their international prize "for his courage and self-sacrifice in revealing the extent of Israel's nuclear weapons programme, he has spent 12_ years in prison and more than 11 of those years in solitary confinement under conditions condemned by Amnesty International as "cruel, inhuman and degrading". After such a long time, the technical secrets that Vanunu possessed are entirely outdated.

It is time to end the pain of this man. His release would be not only a humanitarian encouragement but also a signal of the government's intentions for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East.

(Signed) Full list of names attached
Salzburg, 1 June 1999

Signatories: Annelies Allain (Netherlands/Malaysia)
Sunderlal Bahuguna (India)
Rosalie Bertell (Canada)
Andras Biro (Hungary)
Carmel Budiardjo (UK/Indonesia)
Zafrullah Chowdhury (Bangladesh)
Mike Cooley (United Kingdom)
Stephen Corry (UK/International)
Marie-Therese Danielsson (Sweden/Tahiti)
Hans-Peter Durr (Germany)
Samuel Epstein (United States)
Johan Galtung (Norway/France)
Stephen Gaskin (United States)
Edward Goldsmith (United Kingdom)
Mohammed Idris (Malaysia)
Wilfred Karunaratne (Sri Lanka)
Martin Khor Kok Peng (Malaysia)
Joseph Ki-Zerbo (Burkina Faso)
Katarina Kruhonja (Croatia)
Ida Kuklina (Russia)
T P Kunhikannan (India)
Liubov Kuznetsova (Russia)
Felicia Langer (Germany/Israel)
Amory Lovins (United States)
Jose Lutzenberger (Brazil)
Wangari Maathai (Kenya)
Helen Mack Chang (Guatemala)
Alice Tepper Marlin (United States)
Tapio Mattlar (Finland)
Manfred Max-Neef (Chile)
Ledum Mitee (Nigeria)
Ruth Montrichard (Trinidad & Tobago)
Frances Moore-Lappe (United States)
Phunchok Namgial (Ladakh/India)
Helena Norberg-Hodge (United Kingdom)
Evaristo Nugkuag (Peru)
Sithembiso Nyoni (Zimbabwe)
Juan Pablo Orrego (Chile)
Nancy-Jo Peck (United States)
Vijay Pratap (India)
Peter Rosset (United States)
Mycle Schneider (Germany/France)
Vandana Shiva (India)
Sulak Sivaraksa (Thailand)
Paulo Sousa Decio (Brazil)
Joao Pedro Stedile (Brazil)
Michael Succow (Germany)
Hanumappa Sudarshan (India)
Vesna Terselic (Croatia)
Yuji Tsuchijama (Japan)
John F C Turner (United Kingdom)
Theo van Boven (Netherlands)
Patrick van Rensburg (Botswana)
Janos Vargha (Hungary)
George Vithoulkas (Greece)
Legesse Wolde-Yohannes (Ethiopia)
Melaku Worede (Ethiopia)
Alla Yaroshinskaya (Russia)

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