A Victory for Conscience and International Law

A Victory for Conscience and International Law
By Steve Clemens, Dec. 10, 2004

A jury of six women returned a verdict of “not guilty” in the trial of 4 Christian peacemakers in Minneapolis today. John and Marie Braun, Carol Masters, and Steve Clemens were charged with criminal trespass on July 21, 2004 when they attempted to enter the corporate headquarters of Alliant TechSystems in Edina, MN. The four were attempting to deliver a letter and documents to corporate officers concerning “Employee Liabilities of Weapons Manufacturers Under International Law.” After requesting to meet with one of four corporate officers, the four were arrested after they refused to leave the premises without at least an appointment to meet with them at a future date.

If convicted, the defendants could have faced up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. They chose to request a jury trial instead of accepting an offer to plead guilty in exchange for “community service”. Speaking to a jury, they felt, can help spread the word about International Law and the realities of these weapons.

The trial, presided over by Judge Regina M. Chu, focused on a provision in the MN trespass law which provides for “a claim of right”. The defendants successfully argued that it was reasonable for them to be on the property of this weapons manufacturer because of treaties signed by the United States. Quoting Article VI of the US Constitution where International Treaties signed by our government are identified as “the supreme law of the land”, the defendants then offered into evidence excerpts from the Hague and Geneva Conventions, the CCW Treaty, and the Nuremberg Principles. The Judge also permitted inclusion of articles the defendants had read prior to their nonviolent action that influenced their intent that day.

All four defendants testified in a moving fashion, bringing tears to some eyes in the courtroom. The International Law offered into evidence prohibits the manufacture, sale, or use of weapons which are indiscriminate. Those are weapons which continue to kill after a war has ended, those that aren’t limited to the field of battle, those causing unnecessary suffering and are inhumane, and those which cause long-lasting damage to the natural environment. The four testified that Alliant TechSystems is the primary manufacturer of anti-personnel landmines, cluster bombs, and depleted uranium weapons for the US Military. They described the effects of these weapons, showing them to be indiscriminate and thus illegal.

Two of the defendants, Marie Braun and Steve Clemens, testified about their trips to Iraq and the impact that made on them, causing them to take action against these weapons after seeing first-hand the results of their use on the civilian population of Iraq since the 1991 war. They testified that cluster bombs and depleted uranium weapons were used in even greater numbers in the war in Iraq that began in March 2003 and continues today.

Carol Masters told the jury about the effects of exposure to depleted uranium to US troops to remind all of us that they are being victimized as well as the Iraqi population. John Braun described the brutal and inhumane effects of landmines, cluster bombs and depleted uranium. He urged the jury to “look at the larger picture” when considering the charges against us.

While we celebrate this legal victory, there is much more work to do. Another group of four conscientious citizens from the Annathoth Community in Luck, WI are presently on trial for the same offense committed the week following the July 21 action. Four more groups of 3-5 people face trials for the same witness in the coming months. But while a modest celebration is in order (six sister citizens understood it today), we must continue to work for the day when Alliant TechSystems chooses or is forced to “beat its depleted uranium ‘swords’ into implements of peace.” For more information about this movement, please go to www.circlevision.org and click on the Alliant Action section.

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