Executive Order criminalizes humanitarian workSubmitted by Adam Thomas on Sat, 2007-07-28 17:31.
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President Bush's recent Executive Order "Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq," effectively criminalizes humanitarian work in the war torn country, the ACLU warned today.
Not only does the order authorizes the Treasury Department to freeze and confiscate the assets of anyone determined "to have committed, or to pose a significant risk of committing" acts of violence with the "purpose or effect" of hindering the Iraqi government or reconstruction effort, it also authorizes the freezing of assets of anyone who provides "material support" to such a person or group, whether or not the person's support was knowing or intentional.
The civil rights group claimed that the vague wording of the Executive Order's terms created ambiguity about what kinds of donations and services could be considered to constitute material support, and its sweeping provisions posed risks for residents of the United States and for humanitarian work in Iraq.
"This Executive Order reaches far beyond criminal activity to activity that may be entirely innocent," said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project. "A person may find herself inadvertently in violation of this order and there is no provision for judicial review. It is a strangely undemocratic way to go about bringing democracy to the rest of the world."
In May of 2006, the ACLU filed an amicus brief on behalf of humanitarian organizations that are concerned with the government's sweeping interpretation of a law barring "material support" to blacklisted groups under Section 805 of the Patriot Act and Section 6603 of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004.
"This order could have a serious chilling effect on charitable contributions intended to ease the suffering in Iraq," said Michael German, ACLU national security counsel. "There is no requirement that you even have to know that your assistance is going to a banned person or group before your assets could be blocked. The order makes no exception for humanitarian aid, even if it is necessary to save the lives of people living in the war zone; it is going to tie the hands of legitimate charities that are on the ground trying to do good work in Iraq."
Organizations that signed onto the brief include Oxfam, Operation USA and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.