News Release

U.S. Government Fining Activists for Taking Medicine to Iraq


A Federal District Court heard additional oral arguments today in the case of activists with the campaign Voices in the Wilderness who openly violated the U.S. economic embargo against Iraq.

The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control alleges that a 1998 Voices delegation violated economic sanctions law when it delivered medical supplies to Iraqis. Voices organized over 70 such delegations as part of a campaign of civil disobedience from 1996 to 2003.

Quigley, the attorney representing Voices in the Wilderness, said this afternoon shortly after leaving the courtroom: “The judge was particularly focused on why the government waited for years to issue these fines. The fines were issued shortly after members of Voices in the Wilderness were prominently involved in anti-war protests on October 26, 2002. He said that he will decide in the coming weeks if he will compel the government to turn over their papers on the case.”

Kelly, co-founder of Voices in the Wilderness, said today: “UN economic sanctions punished Iraq’s most vulnerable people who couldn’t possibly have controlled the dictatorship under which they lived. A 1999 UNICEF report found that UN economic sanctions directly contributed to the deaths of over 500,000 Iraqi children under age five. But because we challenged sanctions by delivering medicines to Iraq from 1996 to 2003, and because we oppose occupation, Voices has been fined $20,000 and hauled into federal court. It’s clear that the U.S. policy towards Iraq for the past 15 years has been economic domination followed by direct occupation.” Kelly’s recently-released book is titled Other Lands Have Dreams: From Baghdad to Pekin Prison.

Sacks, the first person to be fined by the government for breaking the sanctions on Iraq, said today: “Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control paid almost no attention to U.S. oil companies that violated economic sanctions so they could make millions of dollars and yet was swift to threaten and penalize people who traveled to Iraq for humanitarian reasons.” A profile of Sacks is available at Common Dreams. He was most recently in Iraq in September 2002 with Congressman Jim McDermott.
More Information

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167