Judge Tauro's Ruling

November 5, 1998

Many of us are carefully following what is happening in Massachusetts where the Burma selective purchasing law is being challenged in federal court. Selective purchasing laws such as this one could also be challenged under the MAI. It is a crucial part of local democracy for states and cities to be able to use boycotts as a tool when human rights are being violated.

Please take a moment to read this action alert and contact the Massachusetts Attorney General + your state's Attorney General if you live outside Massachusetts.

June 23, 1999 Update

ACTION ALERT! U.S. Court Revokes Massachusetts Burma Law

November 5, 1998

In any struggle, there will be defeats and setbacks. But the setback the Free Burma movement - and all pro-democracy movements - suffered yesterday, when Judge Tauro revoked the Massachusetts Burma selective purchasing law, need not be permanent.

With the same dogged determination that we used to drive close to 100 corporations out of Burma, we will ultimately prevail in restoring democracy and human rights in Burma. And we will repair and restore the right of citizens to choose how their money and tax dollars are spent.

Don't despair. Don't be afraid. Take action today.

Contact the Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger by phone, fax or letter. Urge him to appeal Judge Tauro's decision to revoke the Massachusetts Burma Law.

Attorney General Scott Harshbarger
Commonwealth of Massachusetts
1 Ashburton Place
Boston, MA 02108
617) 727-2200
(617) 727-5778 - fax
If you live outside Massachusetts, please also contact your state's Attorney General. Ask him or her to contact the Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger and support Massachusetts by filing an amicus - or friend of the court - brief in defense of the Massachusetts Burma Law.

You can find the address of your state's Attorney General from your phone book or on the website of the National Association of Attorney's General (NAAG)

Please send a copy of your letters to the New England Burma Roundtable so the we can gauge the response from this action alert. Thank you for your support!

Simon Billenness

IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 5, 1998

Contact: Rep. Byron Rushing, 617/722-2637, Simon Billenness

Political Officials and Legal Scholars Criticize U.S. Court Decision to Revoke Massachusetts Burma Law, Call on Attorney General to Appeal Ruling

Rep. Rushing: "If selective purchasing had been banned ten years ago, Nelson Mandela might be still be in prison today."

BOSTON, MA - Legal scholars and elected officials urged the state Attorney General to appeal U.S. District Court Judge Tauro's decision to strike down Massachusetts's Burma Law today. They also warned that yesterday's decision could have devastating consequences for local governments, U.S. taxpayers and the Burmese people.

"If this ruling stands, taxpayers and local governments around the county will lose the right to decide whether to do business that supports brutal regimes like Burma," said Rep. Byron Rushing (D-Boston), who authored the law. "If selective purchasing had been banned ten years ago, Nelson Mandela might still be in prison today."

Judge Tauro ruled in favor of the National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) - a corporate lobbying group - late yesterday afternoon, finding that the 1996 Massachusetts Burma Law infringes on the federal government's power to regulate foreign affairs. Advocates for selective purchasing laws, however, argue that local governments and taxpayers have the right to make procurement decisions that ban contracts with companies that indirectly support brutal regimes.

"Boycotts based on human rights have been a cornerstone of our democracy since the Boston Tea Party," said Simon Billenness, a Senior Analyst for Franklin Research and Development Corporation in Boston. "We cannot allow a few corporations to remove this democratic tool so that they can profit from a murderous military junta."

Twenty-two cities and counties around the country have selective purchasing laws that target Burma, and supporters of the laws say that they are crucial because the Burmese regime profits from most business enterprises in the country. In addition, pro-democracy leader Aung Sun Suu Kyi has repeatedly called for sanctions, and says the Massachusetts Burma Law is a critical way to pressure the military junta without hurting the Burmese people.

"The impact of this decision goes far beyond Massachusetts," said Professor Robert Stumberg of Georgetown University Law Center. "It would deny cities and states the power to use moral standards for choosing their business partners if foreign commerce is affected. It could also affect laws for domestic, minority and environmental purchasing in 45 states."