Bert Sacks' reply to OFAC (June 17, 2002)
OFAC penalty notice (May 17, 2002)
Bert Sacks' reply to OFAC (December 28, 1998)
OFAC pre-penalty notice (December 3, 1998)
127 NW Bowdoin Pl, #103
Seattle, WA 98107
June 17, 2002
R. Richard Newcomb, Director
Office of Foreign Assets Control
Department of the Treasury
Washington, DC 20220
Ref: FAC No. IQ-162016 and IQ-162433
Dear Mr. Newcomb:
This is in response to your letter to me, dated May 17, 2002 (and postmarked from Washington, DC, on May 21, 2002) which imposes a $10,000 fine on me for alleged violations of U.S. sanctions regulations.
In your letter you state that I "admitted the Notice's allegation in Count 6 ["travel-related violations"] ... as an act of civil disobedience." This is incorrect.
Count 6 [in your letter to us of December 3, 1998] deals only with "travel-related transactions ... the purchase of food, lodging, ground transportation and incidentals." I have never admitted to, nor supplied information about, any such transactions.
Therefore, since your claim that I admit to the violation is untrue, I assert that you must either withdraw the fine against me or provide evidence of your claim.
I have stated -- as I did in my reply to you of December 28, 1998 and to Customs agents in Detroit and Seattle -- that I admit to bringing medicines to Iraq. This is the only violation of United States sanctions regulations I admit to.
As a further defense against the fine you've imposed on me, I assert that you have not offered me, in any of your correspondence, the opportunity to have a meaningful hearing before an independent judicial officer about the alleged violation you claim.
A person alleged to have committed the same violation with respect to other countries, Cuba for example, is entitled to such a hearing. With respect to Iraq, it appears that I am not. I assert that it is unconstitutional to treat the two classes of individuals differently, and that it is unconstitutional to impose this type of penalty without affording a meaningful opportunity to be heard and to seek judicial review of an adverse determination.
I assert that I am denied my rights under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. The fact that administrative penalties under the regulations may total $275,000 makes the lack of any independent judicial review especially egregious.
If my understanding of the regulations is incorrect, then I hereby request an independent judicial hearing concerning the fine you've imposed against me.
A further defense against the fine you've imposed on me concerns the relation of U.S. sanctions law to international law. Professor Richard Falk in his attachment to our reply to you of December 28, 1998, began this way: "Given our knowledge of the massive civilian suffering that has resulted from more than eight years of sanctions imposed on the people of Iraq, it becomes clear that their continuation amounts to a serious violation of international humanitarian law." I enclose his statement to you again.
In the intervening three and a half years, the United Nations itself has provided further strong evidence of the "massive civilian suffering" and the "serious violation of international humanitarian law" which Professor Falk described.
On August 12, 1999, UNICEF described the results of their recent survey of child and maternal mortality in Iraq. UNICEF's Executive Director. Carol Bellamy, is quoted this way:
"Ms. Bellamy noted that if the substantial reduction in child mortality throughout Iraq during the 1980s had continued through the 1990s, there would have been half a million fewer deaths of children under five in the country as a whole during the eight year period 1991 to 1998. As a partial explanation, she pointed to a March statement of the Security Council Panel on Humanitarian Issues which states: 'Even if not all suffering in Iraq can be imputed to external factors, especially sanctions, the Iraqi people would not be undergoing such deprivations in the absence of the prolonged measures imposed by the Security Council and the effects of war.'"
The enclosed "UNICEF in Iraq" booklet shows, in pictures and in text, exactly what we see in Iraq. The booklet states, "In 1997, the United Nations Human Rights Committee noted that 'the effect of sanctions and blockades has been to cause suffering and death in Iraq, especially to children.'"
On June 21, 2000, the UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights, in a paper titled "The adverse consequences of economic sanctions on the enjoyment of human rights," found "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."
On May 3, 2002, Professor George E. Bisharat of Hastings College of Law, University of California, began a published article this way: "A serious legal argument can be made that sanctions imposed against Iraq in 1990 by the United Nations have come to constitute genocide."
In a paper "Sanctions as Genocide" in "Transnational Law & Contemporary Problems" from Fall 2001, Professor Bisharat writes: "This Article concludes, with some caution, that a prima facie case can be made that the sanctions program has become a form of genocide and that criminal liability for that offense may rest with U.S. government officials responsible for originating and maintaining the sanctions program."
On June 21, 2001, Ms. Katrina C. Pflaumer, the former United States Attorney for the Western District of Washington, in a published article stated that Gulf War bombing of Iraq's civilian infrastructure, followed by economic sanctions, violates both the Geneva Convention and U.S. federal statutes.
On April 21, 2002, the Annual General Meeting of Amnesty International USA voted overwhelmingly to call for an end to economic sanctions against Iraq, stating that they are an insupportable violation of the human rights of the Iraqi people.
I attach a legal brief supplied to me by Professor Francis Boyle of the University of Illinois College of Law. I wish also to incorporate this brief into my defense against the fine you've imposed on me. The arguments in the brief assert my legal right -- and even my legal obligation -- to violate U.S. sanctions law.
I am also troubled by the selective enforcement of this penalty against me. However I am pleased to be among a distinguished list of individuals and groups who have, like me, brought medicines to needy people in Iraq. This group includes Nobel Peace Laureates, a Catholic bishop, clergy from major religious institutions, representatives of the American Friends Service Committee, Veterans for Peace, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, Pax Christi USA, the Baptist Peace Fellowship, various Quaker meetings, Dominican nuns and priests, Jubilee Partners, 46 Voices in the Wilderness delegations, and hundreds of others.
I have traveled to Basra, Iraq, where we delivered some of our medicine in 1997. The antibiotics we brought saved lives, especially the lives of young children who are most vulnerable to illness from unsafe water. After his visit to Iraq in 2000, U.S. Representative Tony Hall wrote, "I share UNICEF's concerns about the profound effects of increasing deterioration of Iraq's water supply and sanitation systems on its children's health. The prime killer of children under five years of age - diarrheal diseases - has reached epidemic proportions and they now strike four times more often than they did in 1990."
In September 2001, Professor Thomas J. Nagy published an article "The Secret Behind the Sanctions: How the U.S. Intentionally Destroyed Iraq's Water Supply." It begins, "Over the last two years, I've discovered documents of the Defense Intelligence Agency proving beyond a doubt that, contrary to the Geneva Convention, the U.S. government intentionally used sanctions against Iraq to degrade the country's water supply after the Gulf War. The United States knew the cost that civilian Iraqis, mostly children, would pay, and it went ahead anyway. The primary document, 'Iraq Water Treatment Vulnerabilities,' is dated January 22, 1991. It spells out how sanctions will prevent Iraq from supplying clean water to its civilians."
I attach a document titled "Civilian Infrastructure Destroyed" which contains quotes from that Defense Intelligence Agency document, from Pentagon bombing planners after the Gulf War, from the New England Journal of Medicine, and from Representative Tony Hall. This information demonstrates, I believe, that U.S. policy has been to cause suffering and death of Iraqi civilians as a tool of coercion.
Sanctions regulations requiring permission to send medicines to those in need in Iraq create an unnecessary and arbitrary impediment for Americans who wish to help those who are suffering and dying as a consequence of sanctions. (U.S. postal regulations prohibiting the mailing of medicine to Iraq, or anything of value, are a further obstacle and denial of the basic right of Americans to join in acts of mercy.)
For all of the above reasons, 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. For these reasons, I am unwilling to pay the fine you have imposed on me. If you believe that these laws are morally and legally justifiable, I would welcome the opportunity to have a determination on this in a court of law.
- Professor Richard Falk statement, December 28, 1998
- UNICEF press release, August 12, 1999
- UNICEF in Iraq booklet, May 2001
- UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights paper, June 21, 2000
- Katrina C. Pflaumer article, June 21, 2001
- AIUSA resolution on sanctions on Iraq, April 21, 2002
- Professor George E. Bisharat article, May 3, 2002
- Professor George E. Bisharat, "Sanctions as Genocide," Fall 2001, [Vol. 11:379] "Transnational Law & Contemporary Problems"
- Legal Brief provided by Professor Francis Boyle (undated)
- Professor Thomas J. Nagy, "The Secret Behind the Sanctions: How the U.S. Intentionally Destroyed Iraq's Water Supply," September 2001, "The Progressive"
- "On destroying civilian infrastructure during the Gulf War and consequences for the civilian population," June 2000
- cc: U.S. Customs Service
- Fines, Penalties & Forfeitures Office
- (Attn: Mr. Don Zainea)
- Patrick V. McNamara Bldg.
- 477 Michigan Avenue. Rm 200
- Detroit, Michigan 48226
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