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DECEMBER 29, 1998   10:31 AM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Voices in the Wilderness
Rick McDowell, 312-543-6540 (cell phone in D.C.)
 
U.S. Humanitarian Organization Prosecuted for Delivering 'Medicine and Toys' to Iraq
 
WASHINGTON - December 29 - News Advisory:

The U.S. humanitarian organization Voices in the Wilderness, will hold a news conference Wednesday, Dec. 30, at 10 a.m. EST in the National Press Club, Lisagor Room, 13th floor, 14th and F streets, N.W., Washington, D.C.

Speakers include Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit and Kathy Kelly of Voices in the Wilderness (both recently returned from Iraq after delivering medical supplies).

The U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), has proposed fines of $163,000 against Voices in the Wilderness (VitW), a Chicago-based humanitarian organization. The pre-penalty notice of Dec. 3 accuses VitW of engaging in prohibited transactions "relating to the embargo against Iraq," specifically, the "exportation of donated goods, including medical supplies and toys."

Since Jan. 15, 1996, VitW has sent 19 delegations to Iraq, in public violation of United Nations sanctions. Delegation members have delivered symbolic amounts of medicine, medical supplies and (in some cases) toys directly to public hospitals and, in some instances, to the Iraqi Red Crescent Society for distribution. Members have witnessed the devastating conditions of civilian life resulting from 8-1/2 years of the most comprehensive embargo in the history of the United Nations.

Campaign Coordinator Kathy Kelly, who returns from Iraq on Dec. 29, stated "with respect to the enforcement of this embargo, we are conscientious objectors. We will not allow the U.S. government, in the name of democracy or national security, to order us to cooperate with a strategy designed to starve the people of Iraq, to deprive them of medicine and medical supplies, or any of the essentials necessary to sustain daily life. We will not participate in the enforcement of an embargo which uses food and medicine as a weapon, and has led to the deaths of more than 1 million people." While acknowledging violating the embargo regulations, Kelly said "we will not consent to pay any fine, we simply reject the government's contention that we cannot carry medicine to the sick, and assert that it is a greater evil to let the children die."

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