Raise your voices!

IssueSeptember - November 2003
News by Ippy D

US anti-sanctions activists have had a long-threatened civil action brought against them by the US Treasury Department.

At the end of June, campaign group Voices in the Wilderness (US) were sent a summons for “judicial enforcement of a civil penalty of $20,000 assessed by the United States Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) for violations of the Iraqi Sanction Regulations”. The summons gave the group 20 days to respond, otherwise a default judgement would be made against them in favour of the government.

The case against them is based on the numerous sanctions-busting visits the group's members made to Iraq during the 1990s. The summons also notes the group's public statement to “resist ... penalties imposed by the United States”.

In response to the summons the group has pledged to raise at least US$20,000 for the humanitarian needs of Iraqi civilians, and calls on supporters worldwide to raise “at least 20,000 voices” against the action by the US Treasury Department.

You can download a sample letter to the US Attorney General, and discover other means of supporting the group by visiting their website (see below).

The US government has also begun a series of similar legal actions against its citizens who visited Iraq to act as “human shields” during the build up to the war. At least three activists are reported to have received notices from the Treasury Department, threatening them with up to US$1m in fines and 12 years in prison. The British Guardian newspaper reported in mid-August that a US Treasury Department spokesman had “denied any suggestion that the enforcement effort was politically motivated”.