Two Minneapolis Juries Support “International Law” Defense

Two Minneapolis Juries Support “International Law” Defense
By Steve Clemens

Their actions were a week apart in July 2004; the “not guilty” verdicts from their respective juries also came within one week in December.

For nine years, peace activists have held a weekly vigil outside the corporate headquarters of Alliant TechSystems, the largest supplier of ammunition to the US Army. Alliant TechSystems, also known by its corporate logo and stock abbreviation as ATK, has been the primary supplier to the US military of anti-personnel landmines, cluster bombs, and depleted uranium (DU) munitions.

AlliantACTION, the group that has faithfully opposed these indiscriminate weapons of war, designed a notebook of documents entitled “Employee Liabilities of Weapons Manufacturers Under International Law”, and several smaller groups of vigilers attempted to deliver these documents to corporate officials. Along with a cover letter addressed to ATK’s Chairman and CEO, this document spells out how the above three weapons violate International Law which prohibits the manufacture and sale of “indiscriminate” weapons, weapons which cause long-term damage to the natural environment, weapons which are unduly inhumane, and weapons which continue to kill and maim long after a conflict or war has ended. The document also cites four case studies of German manufacturers who were convicted of war crimes by the Nuremberg Tribunals.

Four defendants (John and Marie Braun, Carol Masters, and Steve Clemens) were arrested July 21, 2004 as they approached the entrance to ATK with the documents and requested a meeting with one of four corporate officers. (A fifth defendant, John Maus, died of sudden-onset cancer several months before the trial.) The second group of four activists from the Anathoth Farm Community in rural Luck, Wisconsin (John Heid, Jane Hosking, John LaForge, and Mike Miles) conducted a similar action the following week.

The criminal trespass law in Minnesota contains a provision for a “claim of right” which allows defendants to argue before the court that permission to remain on another’s property is based on another “rule, statute, or law”. In court, both groups of defendants were allowed by Judge Regina Chu and Judge Jack Nordby to present evidence in defense of this claimed right. Citing the US Constitution Article VI, the jury was informed that any treaty signed by the US government is “the supreme law of the land” and that all judges and courts are bound by these laws. The defendants then entered excerpts from The Hague Treaty, The Geneva Accords and Protocols, the “CCW Treaty”, and the Nuremberg Principles as evidence for the jury to consider.

John LaForge testified that his understanding of the Nuremberg Tribunal rulings was intended to prevent these illegal weapons from being manufactured; making the planning of a war using these weapons a war crime. In the other trial, Steve Clemens testified that the Nuremberg Principles prevent manufacturers from “hiding behind property laws” when they are making these indiscriminate weapons. Quoting from Principle VII, Clemens pointed out that “complicity with a war crime” is itself a violation of International Law. Because we know that ATK makes these weapons and because we know how they work and are clearly illegal, we are compelled to take nonviolent action to try to prevent these crimes from taking place, Clemens stated. Both groups of defendants also informed the juries of the vote of the UN Committee on Human Rights which specifically named depleted uranium and cluster bombs as illegal.

This was not the first time that citizen juries have chosen to respect the defense of International Law in the Minneapolis courtrooms. In October 2003, 19 defendants were acquitted of criminal trespass at ATK during the “combat phase” of this present war in Iraq by a six-person jury. In 1997, 79 defendants were also cleared by a jury when they cited International Law in their defense of trespass charges focusing on a protest of ATK’s manufacture of anti-personnel landmines.

Many of the AlliantACTION activists were part of the Honeywell Project, a campaign started in 1968 against ATK’s predecessor, the Honeywell Corporation, for its manufacture of cluster bombs dropped in Indochina by the millions. The campaign against Honeywell resulted in thousands of arrests over more than a decade of public demonstrations. When public pressure built against Honeywell, it finally decided to “spin off’ its weapons production into a new company, Alliant TechSystems.

Every Wednesday morning from 7-8 AM, about 30-40 people, ranging in age from high school students to nuns in their 80’s, to vigil outside ATK’s corporate headquarters in Edina, MN, a wealthy suburb of the Twin Cities. Several times a year, a larger group gathers to hear speakers and to raise their voices in protest. On Memorial Day 2004, more than 300 gathered for a reading of the names of the dead, both Iraqi and US, from this on-going war, lead by members of the local chapter of Veterans For Peace. After the solemn remembrance of the victims of war, the group also heard speeches about International Law and details of the nature of indiscriminate weapons ATK produces. At the conclusion of the rally, more than 60 people moved onto ATK’s property to sit in front of the entrance doors. After no one came to arrest them, the balance of the remaining protest group joined them for a massive sit-in and celebration of citizen activism.

AlliantACTION vows to continue its nonviolent witness, calling for “peace conversion with no loss of jobs.” More information is available at the AlliantACTION link on www.circlevision.org.

Does Hennepin County Harbor War Criminals?

Not Guilty Verdicts by Two Juries in One Week Raises the Question -Does Hennepin County Harbor War Criminals?
By Steve Clemens. Dec. 13, 2004

On December 10 in Hennepin County Court, four nonviolent vigilers were found not guilty by a six person jury. The four Minneapolis residents had been charged with criminal trespass after they had attempted to deliver an AlliantACTION document entitled “Employee Liabilities of Weapons Manufacturers Under International Law” to corporate officers at Alliant TechSystems headquarters in Edina on July 21. The defendants successfully argued that they were compelled to act based on their understanding of International Humanitarian Law and the rulings of the Nuremberg Tribunals.

Alliant TechSystems (ATK) is the US Army’s largest supplier of ammunition and has manufactured antipersonnel landmines, cluster bombs, and depleted uranium weapons. In the two day trial, the four peace activists used a “claim of right” provision in the Minnesota trespass law and then cited numerous provisions in the Hague and Geneva Treaties and subsequent International Laws which prohibit the “manufacture, sale, stockpiling, and/or use” of weapons which are determined to be “indiscriminate” and those which cause long-term damage to the natural environment.

Also cited and entered as evidence in the trial was the decision by the United Nations Committee on Human Rights which specifically names cluster bombs and depleted uranium weapons as being illegal. The U.S. Constitution’s Article VI became evidence with its declaration that treaties signed by our government become “the supreme law of the land” and all judges are bound by it. The Nuremberg Principles are part of the treaty the U.S. signed to become founding members of the United Nations. Defendants testified that the Nuremberg Principles compel us to act if we are aware of the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The manufacture of indiscriminate weapons is a war crime as defined by that document.

Although the four residents, John and Marie Braun, Carol Masters, and Steve Clemens, were acquitted on the basis of “reasonable doubt”, the verdict by the citizen jury raises the question of who is responsible for the enforcement of International Law when ATK publicly admits it has manufactured depleted uranium weapons. Prior to 2000, the ATK website boasted about their manufacture of armor-piercing weapons with “depleted uranium penetrators.” However, after the AlliantACTION group publicly raised concerns about the nature of depleted uranium weapons, all references to this controversial weapon were removed from their website and the words “kinetic energy” replaced that of depleted uranium.

Basing their statements to the jury on the testimony of Dr. Karen Parker before the U.N. Subcommittee, the defendants, who represented themselves, testified that depleted uranium clearly fails four tests, any one of which would make the weapon illegal. 1) Weapons must be limited to the field of battle – depleted uranium (DU), when used, aerosolizes into minute dust particles which can carry the radioactive waste for miles (the territorial test). 2) Weapons must not continue to kill long after a war has ended – DU weapons remain radioactive for a half-life of four and one-half billion years and will continue to impact the civilian population forever until cleaned-up (the temporal test). 3) Weapons must not be unduly inhumane – the cancers, birth defects, and genetic damage linked to the inhalation or ingestion of radioactive DU particles clearly impact both combatants and civilians (the humanness test). 4) Finally, weapons may not cause long-term damage to the natural environment – DU particles can contaminate the air, water, and soil indefinitely until it is removed and permanently secured and guarded in a protective storage facility (the environmental test). Since DU weapons miserably fail all four tests, it is clearly outlawed by existing International Law.

Those acquitted in the trial are part of a larger group called AlliantACTION which holds a Wednesday morning vigil on the public property adjacent to ATK’s headquarters at 5050 Lincoln Drive in Edina. These advocates of nonviolent conflict resolution have gathered weekly, rain or shine, freezing weather or heat, for the past nine years. It is a continuation of the movement begun in 1968 against Honeywell’s manufacture of cluster bombs used in the Vietnam War. There are estimates of up to 10 million unexploded bomblets from these cluster bombs still remaining in Laos 30 years later. The defendants testified that each week brings another report of a farmer or a child killed or seriously wounded when one of these “duds’ explode. After years of high-profile protest against Honeywell, the corporation spun off their weapons production to form a new company in the 1990’s, Alliant TechSystems.

Although ATK continues to make cluster bombs (and protestors often cite their opposition to such), much of the recent focus has been concentrated on opposing DU weapons because they have affected not only Iraqi citizens but also U.S. troops who have served in the areas of Iraq where these radioactive weapons have been used. Reports from various sources quoted in the trial estimate that in excess of 300 tons of DU weapons were used in the 1991 war. Present estimates indicate that more than 1,000 tons of DU has been used in the current war, in major population areas including Baghdad rather than being restricted to the desert areas outside of Basrah which were contaminated in the 1991 war.

On Friday, December 10, as these four defendants were being exonerated by their jury, another group of four peacemakers began their jury trial for an identical action against ATK a week later. The four, John Heid, Jane Hosking, Mike Miles, and John LaForge, all members of the Anathoth Farm Community in Luck, Wisconsin argued their defense based on the same claim of right provisions and submitted the text of International Treaties in support of that claim. On Tuesday afternoon, December 14, they too were found “not guilty” by their six person jury. A similar group of 19 protestors were acquitted by another Hennepin County jury in October 2003. Three additional groups of 3-5 activists have trials pending within the next few months. Alliant Action intends to persevere until ATK stops making these weapons and pays for their clean-up or they are hauled into court on the charges of making illegal weapons. Citizens interested in this vital concern for the world community can get more information at the Alliant Action link on www.circlevision.org.

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.

Closing Argument at ATK 4 trial

Closing Argument
ATK Trial Dec. 10, 2004

Every Wednesday morning one of the vigilers, usually one of the nuns sitting in the back of this courtroom, holds up a sign at the ATK vigil. It reads, “Who Profits? Who Dies?” We have choices to make: Do we want to be a rogue nation or be part of the “community of nations”? Do we want to choose corporate wealth or commonwealth? Do we value Private Profit over Corporate Accountability?

We stipulated the facts in this case so we didn’t waste the time of the Edina Police by having to testify here at this trial.

In the opening arguments from both the Prosecution and the Defense you were told that this case comes down to one issue:
Did the Defendants have a Claim of Right when we came to the entrance of ATK headquarters to deliver the notebook of documents and refused to leave until we could at least get an appointment with one of the corporate officers?

In a few minutes, the Judge will give you her Jury Instructions for your deliberation. In it she defines Claim of Right as: “A good faith claim by the defendants that permission was given to them to be upon the premises by a statute, rule, regulation or other law.”

Judge Chu gives two conditions under which you, the jury, should determine if this is a bona fide (or good and truthful) claim of right:
1. If we, the defendants, believed we had a right to enter and remain on the premises; AND
2. If there were reasonable grounds for this belief, based on our knowledge of a statue, rule, regulation or other law of a federal or state agency.

Let’s focus in on some of these words:
Good Faith
Belief
Reasonable

I trust after hearing our testimony that you have found us to be sincere. I hope after hearing some of our own stories that you can tell that we honestly believe that International Law gives us the claim of right to be at Alliant Techsystems headquarters. We did not discover this “defense” after the fact to use it to justify or excuse our actions. We went to ATK’s entrance with the knowledge of this provision in the law and with conviction that our actions were justifiable under International Law. The question remaining is – is this belief reasonable?

Even though we readily admit we are not EXPERTS on all the nuances of International Law, it is our hope that we have demonstrated to you in our testimony our personal knowledge of both the letter and the spirit of these applicable International Laws. We have studied the wording. We have read the rulings of the United Nations regarding these illegal weapons. We have striven to educate ourselves about these issues. And we have asked ourselves this question: What do we wish the German people would have done when War Crimes were being committed by their governmental, military, and corporate leaders before and during WW II?

Another important word to focus on is INTENT.

We have testified that our intent was to deliver the notebook of documents to corporate officers of ATK, not to seek arrest. We did not have criminal intent; our intent was to take action to help prevent the targeting of civilians by indiscriminate weapons.

Mr. Wood couldn’t argue against the US Constitution when it states that these International Treaties signed by our government are the SUPREME law of the land. Supreme does not mean that it takes a back seat to a private property or a trespass law.

Mr. Wood did not contest that the weapons we have identified are indiscriminate. We have testified how these weapons fail to meet the restrictions placed on weapons allowable during war. They are not limited to the field of battle. The do not stop killing and injuring after the war has ended. The cancers, birth defects, and other dramatic consequences to human health show that these weapons fail the “humanness test”. And the long-term damage to the environment caused by the radioactive waste or unexploded cluster bombs will discourage or prevent citizens from being able to farm in these areas without severe risks.

We testified that these indiscriminate weapons are manufactured and sold by ATK. This company is seeking to make a profit off these weapons that the world community has denounced. We testified that the Nuremberg Principles remind us that we cannot hide behind local or national laws as an excuse to overlook the commission of what they call “War Crimes” and “Crimes against Humanity”. We dare not be “complicit” when these crimes are being committed. Until or unless local or national prosecutors are willing to enforce “the Supreme law of the land”, it is incumbent on those of us with knowledge of International Law to take nonviolent action to help bring this to public attention about the principles and value of these laws. The Red Cross calls on “national courts and public opinion” to help with the implementation of the laws of war.

Property rights should not override the right of the international community to be protected from these indiscriminate weapons. Property rights are not more important than stopping war crimes and crimes against humanity as defined by the Nuremberg Tribunals. The United States helped develop these rules, we cannot exempt ourselves from them when they are not convenient. Would we really argue about property rights if citizens “trespassed” at Auschwitz and tried to prevent the crimes committed there? To remain silent in the face of these crimes would be negligence.

Point nine of the stipulation, the agreement between the state and the defendants states: “The defendants remained nonviolent and courteous throughout this encounter with Alliant representatives and the Edina Police. To compare our actions to annoying and intrusive phone or door-to-door solicitors is both degrading and insulting to the deeply held moral convictions of these defendants. To compare concern about weapons which cause thousands of deaths and countless injuries and diseases to someone attempting to sell another consumer product or service debases the genuine concern we have expressed for the victims of these weapons. Mr. Wood told John Braun his “claim of right” was just an excuse for criminal conduct”, he is the one who is trivializing this case. This case is about very serious concerns.

We, the defendants, are a hope-filled people. We hope that the goodness of the American people can overcome our fears and help us re-join the world community.

Please, take some time. Read the exhibits presented. Read the judge’s instructions. We trust you to make the right decision. We have spoken. Now it is your turn to add your voices on behalf of the voiceless civilian victims of war and corporate greed. We can’t hide behind “Minnesota nice.” We can’t afford to act like “good Germans” and say we didn’t know what they were doing.

There are no “winners” in this case until all of us can work together to eliminate indiscriminate weapons from our world. We can start in our own back yard, in Edina, MN.

-Steve Clemens, Defendant