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This article was originally published in CASI's July 2002 Newsletter (View full contents)
‘11 days of action’ in November
In November of last year, anti-sanctions groups called ‘11 Days of Action’ against the economic sanctions on Iraq. Speaker meetings were held in London, Edinburgh and Oxford, with vigils taking place in London, Sheffield, Manchester, Birmingham and Cambridge.
On 20 November, to mark Universal Children’s Day, CASI and Voices in the Wilderness UK (Voices UK) co-ordinated a ‘phone wave’ targeting the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). Inspired by a similar action in Canada, the phone wave involved groups and individuals being allocated a time-slot during the day during which to call the FCO’s Iraq Desk and explain their concerns about sanctions on Iraq. The Iraq desk were quick to disconnect their phone line, as were the Middle East Section, but many people got through via the switchboard, and the message certainly came across that a large number of people were dissatisfied with the UK’s handling of the sanctions.
Shoppers seeking last-minute Christmas presents at the end of last year were offered an unusual option thanks to Voices UK, who imported and distributed half a tonne of Iraqi dates into the country.
The dates, sold by mail order and in shops across the UK, were accompanied by a leaflet explaining that the dates were illegally imported from Iraq and that buying a box theoretically risked imprisonment. Part of a larger consignment shipped to Italy by the anti-sanctions group Un Ponte Per, the dates were grown in the date belt near Basra in the south of Iraq, and exported in contravention of sanctions from a workers co-operative in al-Masoori.
The action, which was featured on the front page of The Guardian, highlighted the absurdity of preventing all exports from Iraq other than oil. A Foreign Office spokesman was quoted as saying: "We hope that these imports are not depriving the Iraqi people of food supplies" [‘Say no to Saddam this Christmas – turn down a date’, 20 December 2001].
Oxford doctor withholds tax over sanctions
Dr Mercy Heatley, from Oxford, is refusing to pay 7% of her tax bill in protest against the sanctions. Instead, she is donating the amount, which corresponds to that going to military defence, to the UK charity Medical Aid for Iraqi Children (MAIC).
In a letter to the Inland Revenue, she wrote, "The infrastructure of Iraq, devastated by the Gulf War, has never been repaired so that children already undernourished are also exposed to contaminated water supply. As a result they die from preventable gastro-intestinal diseases. There is also a virtual epidemic of unexplained child cancers."
The letter concluded: "By redirecting a proportion of my tax to Medical Aid for Iraq Children I am disassociating myself from the UK Government’s continuing support of sanctions against Iraq."
International Herald Tribune advertisement
Readers of the International Herald Tribune on 20 March 2002 will have seen the results of a high-profile project initiated by Hans von Sponeck. The newspaper featured a full-page advertisement containing a statement opposing economic sanctions on Iraq, signed by over 250 prominent individuals and organisations.
Entitled ‘No more economic sanctions. The Iraqi people have suffered enough!’, the statement demanded "the immediate lifting" of "one of the great injustices of our time", and objected to the policy of ‘smart sanctions’:
The ‘smart sanctions’ proposed by the governments of the United Kingdom and the United States, and the latest Security Council resolution on Iraq, are still economic sanctions. Although they are claimed to ease restrictions on humanitarian imports, they do not allow the economic revival so desperately needed. No foreign loans, no foreign investment, no access to foreign exchange, and no Iraqi exports other than oil are permitted under the resolution. [...] The proposed ‘smart sanctions’ are not the solution to the economic and social catastrophe facing ordinary Iraqi citizens, but a grim perpetuation of a failed policy.
Two Voices US delegates fined $10,000
The US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has imposed $10,000 fines on Bert Sacks and Rev. Randall Mullins, both from Seattle, for breaking sanctions during a November 1997 trip to Iraq with Voices US. It is the first time penalties have been applied to sanctions-breakers in the US.
Sacks was given 30 days to pay his fine from 17 May 2002, but refused, writing "I believe that U.S. sanctions against Iraq are illegal under the U.S. Constitution and international law and that I have a moral and legal obligation to resist them." Instead, he and Voices US launched an appeal, ‘Declaration 2002’, for supporters in the US to donate $10,000 to pay for medical supplies to be taken on the group’s July delegation to Iraq. This target was met within ten days.
On 30 June, Voices US announced that Mullins had also received a $10,000 penalty notice from OFAC. He too has refused to pay.
On 3 December 1998, Voices US were sent a ‘prepenalty notice’, "proposing" a penalty of $120,000 against Voices US itself and $10,000 against each of four named individuals for their "exportation of donated goods, including medical supplies and toys, to Iraq absent specific prior authorization by OFAC and transactions relating to travel to Iraq and activities in Iraq."
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