Family visited Zygier more than 50 times

March 6, 2013 by J-Wire Staff
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Foreign Minister Bob Carr has released the report from the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade into the consulahandling of the case of Mr Ben Zygier – a dual Australian-Israeli citizen who was detained in Israel on January 31, 2010 and passed away in Ayalon prison on December 15, 2010.
Ben Zygier   Photo provided and copyright

Ben Zygier Photo provided and copyright

The report reveals that “Prisoner X”, Melbourne man Ben Zygier who had made Aliyah had ample legal representation and that he had received more than 50 visits from members of his family and confirms that neither Zygier or his family requested any consular assistance during his detention in Israel.

The report examines:
  • DFAT’s knowledge of Mr Zygier’s detention and death; and how and when that information was received;
  • Government handling of consular aspects of this case; and .
  • Lessons learned and recommendations for future improvement in consular services.
The report also raises questions regarding the nature of Australian consular responsibilities for dual nationals, and the use of Australian passports by dual nationals working for the government of their other country of nationality.
Consular support
The Australian Government sought and relied upon assurances from Israeli authorities that:
  • the individual’s legal rights would be respected and,
  • he had legal representation of his own choosing;
  • the individual’s family members had been notified of his arrest and detention; and
  • he was not being mistreated.
The report finds:
  • Mr Zygier was granted regular access to a lawyer and more than 50 visits by family members, while in detention in 2010.
  • There was no request from Mr Zygier, his family or his lawyer for Australian consular assistance;
  • Despite the above, there was a lack of clarity in Government decision-making over consular responsibilities; and
  • In the event, no Australian consular assistance was provided to Mr Zygier and there is no record in this report of any direct contact between Australian Government officials and Mr Zygier during this time.
Foreign Minister Senator Bob Carr

Foreign Minister Senator Bob Carr

The Zygier case was complex and outside the normal bounds of consular activity. However it is unsatisfactory that there was a lack of clarity over the exercise of consular responsibilities.

It is also unsatisfactory that details of assistance provided by Israeli authorities to Mr Zygier were not sought by or provided to DFAT until the commissioning of this report.
I acknowledge DFAT’s contemporaneous assessment that Israel would not have granted direct consular access to Mr Zygier. However it would have been preferable for follow-up information to have been sought in in 2010.
Other matters
The report notes that:
  • With the benefit of hindsight it would have been prudent to consult the Australian Head of Mission in Tel Aviv in February 2010 about the likelihood of Australia being granted consular access to Mr Zygier.
  • A clear understanding within government about consular responsibilities in the case would have generated greater confidence in the decision-making around it.
  • A more coherent system for handling intelligence information on individual consular cases would have assisted management of issues around Mr Zygier’s circumstances.
  • Although a record of briefings in February 2010 would have assisted future handling of issues around the case, this would have been difficult given the briefing agency’s request that no written record be kept.
The report recommends that:
  • Subject to a specific exemption from the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Heads of Mission should be informed of the circumstances of any Australian citizen detained for any reason within the country of their accreditation if that information is available to any Australian agency.
  • The Department should lead whole-of-government development of a protocol for dealing with individuals detained on intelligence-related matters.  The protocol could be modelled on a protocol developed in 2011 to handle cases involving Australians detained overseas in security-related circumstances.
  • A better system should be developed to ensure that senior consular officers can access written records, including intelligence, of sensitive cases.
  • A further review be held into the consular services that should be provided by Australia to dual nationals, particularly in circumstances where the individual is employed by the government of the other country; and
  • We await the outcome of the various inquiries underway or foreshadowed in Israel into the handling of the Zygier case by Israeli authorities before seeking further details from Israel, noting that the Australian government has no legal basis on which to conduct an inquiry in Israel into the circumstances of Mr Zygier’s detention or death.
I have directed that these recommendations be implemented.
I again express my condolences to the Zygier family in Australia and Israel for the passing of Ben Zygier and regret any distress caused by the necessary airing of this matter through this report.



3 Responses to “Family visited Zygier more than 50 times”
  1. Liat Nagar says:

    It’s not dangerous being a dual-national. However, anyone working with an intelligence organisation takes on that job surely with the particular dangers in mind., How can you say that Ben Zygier should not have ended up dead – never, if he was working with MOSSAD? The reality lies with the job he was doing and whatever went wrong in that situation, not with his dual-nationalism. Please be aware that I’m not saying it’s okay to die because you’re working with MOSSAD; I’m talking of the reality of the situation,.

  2. LIZZIE says:

    This neatly summarises surely, the sheer danger of being a Dual-National – this is the terrible lesson Australians are learning, the Australian Jewish community in particular. Its haunting and its horrible…he had a 4 day old baby girl…did he get to see her?…he died immediately after her birth…the whole thing is utterly sickening and no amount of Minister Carr dancing the fine diplomatic fandango on a shekel, is going to alter that.

    The Carr report seemed so competent but Ben Zygier should not have wound up dead – never! This is not the 1960s. A lot of women who have sons in the same age bracket, are feeling this deeply: bottom line, is that its terrifying.


  3. Lynne Newington says:

    I think everybody needs to refresh their memories.
    I know you now have Julia Bishop on side now, but….
    The Australian May 26 2010
    The Herald Sun May 26 2010
    The SMH 26 2010
    Your own publication May 26 2010

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