by Steve Clemens / Pulse of the Twin Cities –
MINNESOTA — On October 17, 2003, a six-person jury of citizens from Hennepin County declared that International Law can trump the local private property/no trespass law.
At the height of the recent war against Iraq, on April 2, 2003, 28 Minnesotans “crossed the line,” entering the world headquarters property of Alliant TechSystems Corporation in Edina with the express purpose of conducting a “citizens weapons inspection.”
The letter they carried demanded that they have access to the books and records of Alliant TechSystems Corporation (ATK) to see if they had completed any studies on the medical and environmental effects of the depleted uranium munitions they produce.
The defendants contended that there is significant evidence that the depleted uranium penetrator munitions produced by ATK containing U-238, a radioactive substance with a half-life of 4.5 billion years, is a prime suspect in escalating rates of cancers and birth defects among residents of southern Iraq and US troops who served in the first Gulf War.
On April 2, 2003, 28 activists crossed the line and entered Alliant TechSystems. On October 17, 2003 a public trial was held and all 28 were found not guilty.
Citizen Weapons Inspectors Cited US, International Law
Using provisions from the US Constitution and International Humanitarian Law, the defendants successfully argued that the “manufacture, sale, stockpiling, as well as the use of weapons containing this radioactive waste (depleted uranium) is illegal.
The US Constitution declares that International Treaties signed by the government become “the supreme law of the land.” The Hague and Geneva Conventions and its protocols and subsequent treaties are clear that weapons which cannot discriminate between civilian and military or combatants are prohibited from not only use but also from manufacture and sale. The Nuremberg Tribunals were the vehicle victorious Allied countries used to judge and punish German military, political, and corporate leaders for war crimes, crimes against peace, and crimes against humanity after WWII.
The Nuremberg Principles were incorporated into the Charter of the United Nations, a treaty which in now “supreme law” in the US when it ratified it. The 7th Principle declares that “complicity with a Crime Against Humanity or a War Crime” is a crime under International Law. Because of the increasing evidence mounting about the indiscriminate nature of this weapon, the defendants argued they were compelled to act.
All 19 of the remaining defendants (nine original defendants pled “guilty” because they were unable to devote a week out of their work/school schedules to a jury trial) testified on Thursday, clearly moving the jury as well as fellow defendants.
Moving, First-hand Accounts Swayed the Jurors
Steve Clemens introduced the provisions from International Law and he and three other defendants told accounts of what they had seen first-hand in visits to Iraq since the 1991 war. Dr. Gene Ott testified about some of the medical consequences he suspects are the results of exposure to the use of these radioactive weapons. The most moving testimony came from a first-time activist.
Wendi Nauheimer had never been in a demonstration before. One week before this witness against ATK took place, she told Marv Davidov, the longtime peace and justice activist, “They [ATK] killed my brother, Patrick.”
Wendi testified that her brother, a US Marine for 11 years, returned from the desert area of Iraq and Kuwait after “cleanup” of the area where depleted uranium weapons were used with sores on his body. He developed an aggressive form of leukemia and died in 1995, leaving a widow and two young children. Before he died, he told his family, “Something happened to me in that desert.” Wendi believes her brother’s death is at least partially due to the exposure to radiation he received from the waste left by depleted uranium penetrator munitions manufactured by ATK and sold to the Army and Air Force and used in that war.
Nuns Call for Move ‘from Money-wealth to Commonwealth’
Another defendant, Katie Gray Brown, testified that her brother-in-law is dying from cancers she believes were caused by the radioactive nature of the shrapnel which lodged near his spine during the first Gulf War. The defendants included six Roman Catholic nuns who testified how our nation’s spending on the military has deprived many needy people in our inner cities.
Sister Char Madigan pled with the jury to join her in working to move from “money-wealth to commonwealth.” She said that ATK cannot hide what it is doing for profit behind “private property” laws but must be exposed and held accountable like the tobacco companies and Enron.
Jane Evershed, a local poet and artist told of being arrested for protesting apartheid in South Africa. Today, that evil system is gone and she believes that some day soon, so will the evilness of depleted uranium weapons be evident to the majority and we will rid ourselves of it as well.
Christians and Atheists United by Respect for Life
Phil Steger, Director of the Friends For a NonViolent World handled the difficult task of the opening and closing arguments, winning praise from the prosecutor. Because all of the defendants were there without an attorney by their choice, Phil’s eloquence was all the more appreciated by the other defendants since this was his first trial.
Although most defendants were motivated by their Christian faith, Kathleen Ruona, a proclaimed atheist, spoke movingly of “species arrogance” in that the deadly radiation released by these illegal weapons threaten not only humans but other plant and animal life as well. Marv Davidov, a Jewish activist thundered like one of the Hebrew prophets of old as he decried the racism of our society and then told of his 30-plus year campaign to stop the production of landmines, cluster bombs, and depleted uranium weapons made by Honeywell Corporation and now by the spin-off of that company into ATK. Because of the large and frequent demonstrations against the weapons they were making, Honeywell divested itself of that division.
Marv and “Alliant Action,” as well as the newly-created “Philip Berrigan Depleted Uranium Coalition,” will continue to work to convert ATK from its present production of “swords” into “plowshares” which can better all humankind. Weekly vigils, begun in 1995, will continue by the entrance to ATK. Come join us!
For more information, contact: Nukewatch, PO Box 649, Luck, Wisc. 54853, Phone: 715-472-4185, Fax: 715-472-4184, http://www.nukewatch.com