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Peace Campaigners Declare Iraq Procuremment Conference is Illegal

Legal Campaign | 05.07.2004 23:11 | Anti-militarism | Globalisation | Repression | London | World


Peace activists on trial claim international privatisation of Iraq is pillage and violates the Geneva Convention.


Peace activists on trial claim international privatisation of Iraq is pillage and violates the Geneva Convention.

Peace activists Ewa Jasiewicz (26) recently returned from 9 months solidarity work with trade unionists, families, refugees and women’s groups in Iraq. Following her return, Ewa and a fellow activist were charged with 'Aggravated Trespass' whilst protesting against the Iraq Procurement Conference held in London on 27th April 2004. Their trial will be held at Highbury Corner Magistrates Court on July 9th at 10.30am (with supporters staging a lively solidarity picket from 9am).

The prosecution, Windrush Communications organised the Iraq Procurement Conference to bring together-

“Over 200 companies and organisations from around the world … to discuss the wide range of economic opportunities available. The event was open to interested businesses and organisations from all countries, immediately following the awarding of up to $18.4 billion in contracts from the US Congress and prior to the handover from the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) to the new Iraqi government on 30 June.” (This quote is from the event website -

The defendants have been charged with 'disrupt[ing] a lawful meeting' when they unravelled banners and addressed the delegates, in Arabic and English, as collaborators, complicit in the daily massacres in Iraq. The defence will argue that the meeting was not a lawful event as it was facilitating acts of pillage - illegal under the Hague Regulations of 1907 which Britain and the US are both signatories to. In a leaked memo dated March 26th 2003, UK Attorney General Lord Peter Goldsmith advised Prime Minister Blair that in his view, 'the imposition of major structural economic reforms would not be authorised under international law'. (Source: Guardian, 7 November 2003, “Pillage is forbidden: Why the privatisation of Iraq is illegal“ Aaron Mate). The defendants have asked the Attorney General to give evidence at the trial, but it is not yet known whether he will attend.

This case will set a legal precedent by putting the pillage of Iraq on trial. The defendants hope the court will rule that the conference was unlawful based on international law.

For information, contact the defendants -
Ewa at
Pennie at



1- On the Iraq Procurement Conference, Jasiewicz says-

'Its as simple as this. Iraq is not America's to sell. It is up to the people of Iraq to decide, finally, theirs and their county's destiny - political, social and economic. Everything right now is being done to prevent that from happening. We, as people of consciousness and conscience in this country, have the responsibility to do whatever it takes to fight for that freedom. Our liberation is connected to their liberation. The liberation of the people of Iraq.

The forces which are oppressing us not just in Iraq but Palestine, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Colombia, West Papua, America, Poland, the world over, bear the same features, same dynamics, follow the same agenda and are fomenting a global crisis of poverty, panic, war and ecocide. The support networks for this process are present in this country and manifest themselves in conferences and meetings of the powerful and remorseless, planning and legitimising the plundering of economies and the perpetuation of war, disempowerment, poverty and killing. They happen here. They are the Iraq Procurement Conference. We can stop them.'

2- Ewa’s Experience in Occupied Iraq –

Ewa Jasiewicz worked and lived with trade union leaders in the poorest neighbourhoods in British occupied Basra - Hayania and Jhoumouria from October 2003 to February 2004. She helped unemployed workers find work, advocated for trade union recognition, the right to organise and have a premises with bosses in support of workers, held workshops on the corporations privatising Iraq, the reclamation of the International Labour Organisation Conventions (the 'Geneva Conventions' of Workers Rights) of which Iraq is a signatory to over 66 of, plus raised awareness of the illegal orders (de-facto laws) the Occupation had passed, namely the setting of all the wages for Public Sector workers in Iraq, the lowest being 69,000 ID ($45 per month - less than half the recommended wages of a sweatshop workers in a free trade zone in Neighbouring Iran), plus the notorious Order 39 on Foreign Investments which allows for 100% privatisation of everything basically, above ground level in Iraq, property ownership for up to 40 years and 100% capital flight meaning all the mega profits made in Iraq can go straight into the coffers of big corporations, with none going to benefit the people of Iraq.

With its orders instituting exploitation wages, low taxes and maximum profit, the whole of Iraq was in effect turned into one big free trade zone. All whilst Iraqi people were still and are still being attacked and oppressed by Baathists re-employed by the Occupation government, both in the managerial class, police, secret intelligence services and government itself, not least of all Iyaad Alawi, former co-coordinator of Baathist Intelligence (Youth section), organizer of public executions and CIA informer.

Jasiewicz, along with US Labour Rights Anti-War network US Labour Against The War, received a blessing from the Grand Ayatollah Sistani for their work in highlighting the exploitative histories and current make-up of the main key corporations privatising Iraq to ordinary workers.

Jasiewicz interviewed, encouraged and supported workers in the Oil and Electricity sectors and Ports in Basra, including Umm Qasr. When privatisation was mentioned she observed, 'The Vice President of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions, Samir Hanoon told me that privatisation of Basra's industries would happen 'over our dead bodies'. Workers in the mechanical sector of Najebeeya electricity plant, when told of Bechtell's past in privatising water in Bolivia, and that Bechtell had won the contract to 'reconstruct' the water system in Basra plus the electricity sector (both remain degraded and debased) they said 'we will Kill them!!'. Feelings on privatisation by ordinary workers were very strong, given how theyd been so systematically, disempowered, abused, murdered and traumatised by the former regime yet heroically kept their workplaces going despite the devastating effect of the genocidal 13-year US UK sanctions attack on them, but are now facing yet more disempowerment through the recycling of former Baathist bosses into positions of intimidation and control over them and by their further disempowerment and humiliation from the Occupation in setting them slave wages and deciding the future of their workplaces and economy'.

Jasiewicz was instrumental in encouraging the Southern Oil Company workers to go on strike against the occupation's orders, given their crucial position of power in producing and sustaining the lifeblood of the Iraqi economy.

In December, the SOC Union announced the formation of its own wagetable, in accordance with Iraq’s inflated rent, food and fuel prices, demanding that 155,000 ID (approx $95) be the minimum wage and that risk and location payments be restored. If this was refused, the workers declared they would go on all-out strike and in the words of Hassan Jum'aa, head of the SOC Union, would 'Shut down Iraq from North to South'. If any troops were called in, the workers said they would go on armed strike and that they would join the armed resistance.

This was no empty threat; SOC trade unionists had been involved in the 1991 intifada (uprising) against the Baath regime. They told their members to start saving up in preparation for the strike. Their threat was taken seriously. In January, workers in the oil sector managed to autonomously raise their own wages to 102,000 ID (approx $70 per month) and were granted risk and location payments amounting to one third of their monthly income. It was a major victory for all workers in Iraq and represented the potential for challenging the Occupation and winning.

The Privatisation of the Iraqi economy has been
pronounced illegal even by the Global head of energy and arbitration at pro-Privatisation law firm Norton Rose, Juliet Blanch who has advised potential corporate clients to stay out of all-Iraq carve-up as Bremers reforms are "in breach of international law and are likely not enforceable". Blanch argues that the CPA "has no authority or ability to sign those [privatisation] contracts", and that a sovereign Iraqi government would have "quite a serious argument for re-nationalisation without paying compensation".

3- Relevant Links: - website of the Iraq Procurement Conference - website of the Occupation Administration - Orders can be found in the Documents section - Up-to-date info and analysis on the continuing occupation and traumatisation of Iraq - Ewa Jasiewicz's 36-page research report on workers struggle in British Occupied Basra SOC Workers Throw Out KBR, Reconstruct Their workplaces Autonomously article by Ewa Jasiewicz - Iraqi Workers Threaten General Strike, Armed resistance - article by Ewa Jasiewicz - Basra Braces Itself for Industrial Shut-Down - article by Ewa Jasiewicz on Electricity Sector workers threatening strike action - Update on Electricity Workers Strike article by Ewa Jasiewicz - Umm Qasr workers wrestle with the prospect of forming a union. There is now a trade union at Umm Qasr! International Longshore and Warehouse Union members, employed by SSA Marine (formerly known as Stevedoring Services of America), the company which has been responsible for Umm Qasr since the occupation began sent a letter of solidarity and ecouragement to the workers at the key Port. It is thought this helped workers gain the confidence and build on the already exisiting desire to form a union.

4- Defence Representation- The defendants will be represented by law firm Taylor Nichol.

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