uniting in New York
86 Arrested: No Sanctions!

New York - 14 February: 86 protesters from across the US and Canada were arrested at the US Mission to the UN at noon on Valentines day. They were confronting the US/UN Security Council sanctions against Iraq. Among those arrested were Kathy Kelly, co-founder of Voices in the Wilderness and Reverend John Dear, executive director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation.

A broad spectrum of human rights groups were represented in both the nonviolent resistance action and the legal demonstration. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Pax Christi USA, the American Friends Service Committee and the Fellowship of Reconciliation, have all taken official stands against the sanctions. Leaders from every major religion in the US have also condemned the sanctions.

In August 1999 UNICEF used the infant mortality rate from before the sanctions to estimate that 500,000 Iraqi children under the age of five have died due to the effects of sanctions.

"They die from dysentery, typhus, cholera and other epidemics of water-borne diseases," says Raed Battah, "which were created when the US bombed the civilian infrastructure of Iraq during the Gulf War; the sanctions prevent infrastructure repair and maintenance." Battah, Kentucky, recently traveled with Voices in the Wilderness to Iraq, in open and public violation of the sanctions.

The protesters echo the concerns of the UN Humanitarian Relief Coordinator in Iraq, Mr. Hans von Sponeck, who has now asked to be relieved of his duties. Diplomats, speaking on conditions of anonymity, said von Sponeck will be leaving because of the difficulties entailed with implementing the UN trade sanctions, initially imposed to force Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait.

The sanctions have crippled the Iraqi economy, leaving ordinary Iraqis struggling to feed and clothe themselves. Von Sponeck wanted the Security Council to separate Iraq's humanitarian needs from its disarmament. His outspoken remarks drew sharp criticism from both the US and Britain, the main proponents of sanctions on Iraq. Von Sponeck was also critical of the UN approved Oil for Food program.

Contact: Voices in the Wilderness: 202/258-4958 (cell phone) or Fellowship of Reconciliation: 914/358-4601.