OFAC has imposed a $10,000 fine on Bert Sacks, an American, for admitting to bringing
medicines to Iraq. Sacks will hold a press conference to display samples of medicines
he has carried to Iraq and announce his intent to continue nonviolently resisting
the UN/US economic sanctions against Iraq. Sacks says he will not pay the fine
and will elaborate on his reasons on the 17th, the last working day within the
period which the US Treasury Department and OFAC have allotted as a response time
before they will attempt collection and add penalties. Mr. Sacks traveled to Iraq
with a delegation of four from the Chicago-based group Voices in the Wilderness.
In December 1998, the Treasury's OFAC threatened the entire group with fines totaling
$163,000. However, this is the first time an actual fine has been imposed, and
only on Mr. Sacks. Returning in late May from his eighth trip to Iraq, Bert Sacks
explained his position: "I have seen the children of Basra, ill and dying
because of unsafe water. How can I ask the government which deliberately bombed
civilian infrastructure during the Gulf War - knowing it would create conditions
of unsafe water and doing so as a tool of coercion - how can I ask this government
for permission to bring medicines to those still in need?" Kathy Kelly, co-founder
of the group Voices in the Wilderness, will also attend. She says, from her many
trips to Iraq, that the sanctions regime represents one of the greatest injustices
of our time, having brought starvation and disease to millions of innocent Iraqis.
The recent UN Security Council Resolution endorsing so called 'smart sanctions'
won't solve the economic and social catastrophe facing ordinary Iraqi citizens,"
said Kelly, describing it instead as a grim perpetuation of a failed policy. "We
will continue resisting economic warfare by sending delegations to Iraq and, if
need be, taking up residence in Iraq in advance of and during any new massive
military assault against Iraqi civilians." Peter Lems, of the American Friends
Service Committee, will have returned from Iraq days earlier. He is expected to
attend and speak of what he has just seen on his fact-finding trip. All three
cite the paper from the U.N. Subcommision on Human Rights: "The sanctions
regime against Iraq is unequivocally illegal under existing international humanitarian
law and human rights law. Some would go as far as making a charge of genocide."
Bert Sacks says, "Given this finding, I am morally and legally obligated
NOT to obey U.S. laws which violate international law." He also notes, "If
I'd received a $100 traffic ticket, I'd be entitled to a hearing before a judge,
but with this fine of $10,000, I am not."