The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
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Dear Mr Rai and everyone else Is is not time that CASI has a clear policy on the campaigning tactics and methods which we choose to support? I had believed that CASI was an organisation which supported peaceful and legal campaigning, with the possible addition of radical methods of protest, such as sit downs and the like. I was not aware that CASI supported the causing of criminal damage to Her Majesty's buildings. I am sure that there are many people who do not feel that sanctions against Iraq are the most effective way of undermining Saddam Hussein's attacks on his own people because of the way sanctions affect the people of Iraq, but who do not agree with people breaking the law and damaging a government building in our capital city, containing civil servants who, overall, do much to promote human rights around the world. As a citizen, I object to people causing disgraceful acts of vandalism to buildings which are at the heart of the democracy in which we live. As a law student, I object to people deciding that they can break the law whenever they choose. And I object to the cost of repairing the damage being met by the taxpayer from money which could be better spent on schools and hospitals rather than those who caused the damage. I cannot see how these actions bring any benefit to the cause of the Iraqi people. The most important factor in policy towards Iraq is the media and public opinion. Most people in this country think that crime does nothing but mar the cause of the person committing them. Of course injustice makes us angry, but should it really stop us participating in the democratic process through lawful means? It is nonsense to say that the individuals concerned risk six months in prison. Unless they have committed other crimes we don't know about, they are likely to be fined or given a community service order and told to pay compensation for the damage they have caused. Even if they are jailed, it will be for a very short period. So why exactly do they need our support protesting outside a court where a stipendiary magistrate will be seeking to uphold the rule of law on which our democracy depends? Doubtless those who are on trial will tell us that it is their rights which are being violated and it is they who are being oppressed. Yet it is they who benefit from the democracy which our system, as represented in its international form by the Foreign Office, upholds. They have not been tortured. They are not facing a firing squad. They have not had electrodes attached to their genitals or had their eyes viciously cut out. No. Thank God they are facing a fair trial in open court, probably followed by a small fine, instead. Thank God they are not trying to exercise their right to any form of protest in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. As much as I agree that sanctions on Iraq are misguided and wrong, I do think we need to keep some sense of the need to act within the law. People who vanadlise public property may have their heart in the right place, but should we really be going to Bow Street to cheer them on as heroes for committing a crime against our democracy? If you were the judge hearing the case, what justification could you find for acquitting them? Unlike the Plowshares case, this is not a prevention of a crime against international law. It is an act of protest which goes beyond what is acceptable in a free society. The judge cannot but do his duty and convict these people. Alan ************************** ALAN BATES Christ's College St. Andrew's Street Cambridge CB2 3BU Tel: 01223 767817 On Fri, 12 Mar 1999, Milan Rai wrote: > PUT THE FOREIGN OFFICE ON TRIAL ! > > This coming Monday (March 15th) voices in the wilderness members Gabriel Carlyle and Andrea Needham will be appearing at Bow Street Magistrates' Court in London (nearest tube: Covent Garden) charged with criminal damage to the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The trial will take place at 2pm. > > On December 17th, as the bombs rained down on Iraq, the pair through buckets of red paint at the FO wall where they also wrote the messages "Stop the killing" and "Lift the Sanctions". The FO is claiming £2178 worth of damages. If convicted the pair could face a 6 month prison sentence. > -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To be removed/added, email email@example.com, NOT the whole list. Archived at http://linux.clare.cam.ac.uk/~saw27/casi/discuss.html