Michael Sussman (Goshen, NY), attorney for Judith Karpova of Kerhonkson, NY, filed a Complaint today in United States District Court, Southern District of New York, refuting their authority to fine his client for her pre-war travel to Iraq. The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) division of the Treasury Dept. has levied fines of up to $20,000 against individuals and organizations who traveled to pre-war Iraq to bring medicines and protect essential civilian infrastructure.|
OFAC, in its Penalty Notice of March 14, 2005 to Karpova, cites the Iraqi Sanctions Regulations under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. sec. 1701, et. seq.), originally passed by Congress in 1990 in response to Iraqs incursion into Kuwait. This Act established an economic embargo of Iraq, prohibiting US citizens from doing business or traveling there. OFAC is using these regulations to attempt to fine Karpova and other humanitarian travelers to Iraq prior to the 2003 war.
These regulations, asserts Sussman, dont apply to his client, and he is challenging them in court. The charges against her are baseless from their foundation on up, he says. In the first place, the Emergency Economic Powers Act is designed to deal with unusual and extraordinary threats. There was no threat from Iraq. The administrations claim that Iraq posed an imminent threat to the national security of the United States has been proven to be a baseless fabrication. Further, my client certainly did not go to Iraq to engage in any commerce, but to bear witness and advocate for peace, in the tradition of interposition movements that go back almost a century. Gandhi used these non-violent, spiritual tactics in his campaigns. On the other hand, the United States use of force in Iraq violated basic principles of international law which disallow one sovereign nation from intervening in the internal affairs of another through the use of force.
Sussmans Complaint challenges as well the constitutionality of the regulations under which OFAC proposes to fine Karpova. Its one thing to ban commercial transactions with an odious regime, says Sussman. Its another to ban US citizens from meeting their counterparts suffering under such a regime. This is a violation of the First and Fifth Amendments of our Constitution.
I did not support the previous Iraqi government in any way, states Karpova, but I felt that Iraq was suffering as much under the sanctions policy of my country as it was from its own dictator, and that a baseless war would cause much more suffering. I went to draw public attention to the threat of water treatment plants being bombed again, as they were in 1991. I went to meet ordinary Iraqi people, to visit the children in hospitals. I brought nothing to Iraq but some coloring books. I dont know if the children I gave them to are even still alive.
Karpova is currently writing a book about her experiences in Iraq. She is active in a local counter-recruitment organization, Enlist for Peace, and has converted her home to one that uses renewable energy.
Sussman expects the Complaint to be heard sometime before the fall of 2006. It is simply high time for America's judiciary to stand up and enforce the law, including giving a thorough review to the administration's efforts to isolate those who had the courage and foresight to stand up to this illegal war, Sussman concluded.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
JOHN SNOW, SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT
OF THE TREASURY and UNITED STATES OF
By and through her counsel, Michael H. Sussman, plaintiff complains of defendants as follows:
1. Plaintiff Judith Karpova is resident in the State of New York. She is an American citizen.
2. Defendant John Snow is Secretary of the United States Department of the Treasury which does business in the State of New York and within this judicial district.
3. Defendant, United States of America, is represented for purposes of this suit by the Executive Branch, which implements and enforces laws and constitutional provisions for the benefit of its citizens and residents.
4. This Honorable Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 5 U.S.C. sec. 702, et. seq., as the defendants have taken final agency action adverse to the rights of the plaintiff and do business within the jurisdiction.
STATEMENT OF FACTS
5. The Iraq Sanctions Regulations were enacted in 1990 to punish Iraq for its incursion into Kuwait.
6. Pursuant to 50 U.S.C. sec. 1701, et. seq, the President of the United States has authority "to deal with any unusual and extraordinary [foreign] threat
to the national security, foreign policy or economy of the United States."
7. At no time relevant herein has the nation of Iraq posed a threat to the national security, foreign policy or economy of the United States.
8. In justifying the invasion of Iraq, the President of the United States misled the American people, declaring on numerous occasions that (a) Saddam Hussein harbored weapons of mass destruction [since proven to be false]; (b) Saddam Hussein intended to use such weapons in concert with his allies in Al Quaeda against the United States [since proven to be false], and © Iraq posed an imminent threat to the national security of the United States [since proven to be a baseless fabrication].
9. On the basis of these demonstrably false propositions, acting through the President, defendant United States invoked and extended bans on travel and intercourse between United States citizens, like plaintiff, and the nation of Iraq.
10. In February 2003, plaintiff visited Iraq as a "human shield" to stand in
solidarity with the Iraqi people against the threatened use of deadly and massive force by the United States Government.
11. Popularly known as "human shields," the "Truth Justice Peace Action Project to Iraq [hereinafter "the project"], in which plaintiff participated, was an instance of the peace brigade, interposition and accompaniment movement which commenced before Gandhi and after which he modeled his conduct.
12. The purpose of the project was to defend Iraqi civilian infrastructure from bombing which, during the Gulf War, destroyed numerous facilities needed to sustain human life in violation of Articles 35 and 54 of the First Additional Protocol of 1977 to the Geneva Conventions.
13. Plaintiff provided no financial benefit of any kind to the Government in Iraq when she served as a human shield and her action was permissible under the IIEPA, 50 U.S.C. secs. 1701-06.
14. On the other hand, the defendant United States' use of force in Iraq violated basic principles of international law which disallow one sovereign nation from intervening in the internal affairs of another by and through the use of force.
15. The circumstances which might trigger the kinds of travel restrictions imposed against plaintiff did not exist in 2003 or at any time thereafter.
16. Plaintiff departed Iraq on March 9, 2003, long before the actual commencement of military activities by the United States.
17. Before then, while in Iraq and associated with the project, plaintiff
stationed herself at an infrastructure site verified as humanitarian by the United Nations Development Program.
18. By letter dated June 23, 2004, acting through his agents, defendant Snow issued a pre-penalty notice to plaintiff charging her with "engaging in certain prohibited transactions relating to Iraq."
19. Said notice broadly accused plaintiff of "attempting to collect funds for [her] travel expenses to/from/within Iraq," which is not illegal.
20. Said notice also falsely claimed that plaintiff "provided services to the former Government of Iraq by shielding a [government] infra-structure from possible United States military action." This formulation emphasizes the connection of this infrastructure facility with the Iraqi government despite the fact that this facility overwhelmingly supported civilian life activities.
21. In fact, plaintiff did not engage in any prohibited commercial activity by traveling to Iraq in February 2003.
22. Contrary to the claims by defendant Snow, plaintiff never worked for, or in concert with, the Iraqi government.
23. Plaintiff's conduct in acting as a human shield was solely intended to
protect innocent civilians and was not, as defendants have contended, organized or coordinated by the Government of Iraq.
24. In August 2004, plaintiff responded to the government's pre-penalty notice, showing that the sanction proposed against her was illegal and baseless.
25. On March 14, 2005, acting through his agents, defendant Snow fined plaintiff $6,700 with interest and administrative charges for her alleged violation of 50 U.S.C. sec. 1701, et. seq. and 31 C.F.R. Secs. 757.205 and 575.207.
26. No judicial body has ever found plaintiff guilty of violating a legally imposed travel ban prohibiting United States citizens from visiting Iraq.
27. No judicial body has ever found plaintiff guilty of violating a legally imposed prohibition of her traveling to Iraq to promote humanitarian purposes.
28. Plaintiff has been injured in fact by the overbroad sanctions imposed upon travel by United States citizens to Iraq and the attendant penalty imposed upon her for engaging in such travel.
CAUSES OF ACTION
29. Plaintiff incorporates paras. 1-28 as set forth above as if fully incorporated herein.
30. By banning and making illegal her travel to Iraq, by punishing her for traveling to Iraq, defendants have violated the First and Fifth Amendments [due process clause] to the United States Constitution which protect plaintiffs right to freedom of speech, expression, travel and provide due process of law.
31. By seeking to restrict all civilian travel to Iraq, the overbroad Iraqi sanction Regulations, which form one basis for the penalty notice, defendants unconstitutionally violated plaintiff's rights as extended by the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
32. By imposing penalties upon plaintiff though she has not violated
any provision of law and based upon findings of fact which are arbitrary, capricious, inaccurate and have never been subjected to cross-examination,
defendants have violated 5 U.S.C. sec. 701, et. seq. and engaged in final agency action which is unlawful.
PRAYER FOR RELIEF
WHEREFORE, plaintiff prays that this Honorable Court:
a) accept jurisdiction over this matter;
b) declare null, void and contrary to law the Penalty Notice dated March 14, 2005;
c) permanently enjoin the defendants from blocking or restricting plaintiff in the expression of her right to freedom of speech and freedom of travel, absent a cause or basis which legitimately permits the abridgment of either right;
d) declare null, void and contrary to law 31 C.F.R. 575.207 on the ground that the necessary predicate for said regulation, i.e., that Iraq poses a substantial threat to the national interests of the United States, is false and baseless;
e) grant plaintiff her reasonable costs and attorneys' fees as a prevailing party, and
f) enter any other order it deems necessary to effectuate the interests of justice.
MICHAEL H. SUSSMAN 
LAW OFFICES OF MICHAEL H. SUSSMAN
P.O. BOX 1005
GOSHEN, NEW YORK 10924
Counsel for Plaintiff Karpova
Dated: June 9, 2005