Human Rights experts are calling for the lifting of sanctions

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Publish Date : 04/11/2020 10:08
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"Sanctioned countries are especially hard-hit as they cannot use their revenues to purchase imports of equipment, medicines, antiviral and food from global markets,"

A UN human rights expert called for the lifting of all unilateral sanctions that obstruct the humanitarian responses of sanctioned States, in order to enable their health care systems to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and save lives.

"I urge the international community to take immediate measures to lift, or at least suspend, all sanctions until our common threat is eliminated," said Ms. Alena Douhan, the newly appointed UN Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights. This aligns with the recent appeal of the UN Secretary-General to wave sanctions that undermine countries' capacity to respond to the pandemic. "The defeat of this enemy can only be achieved through joint efforts of all States and international organisations in a spirit of multilateralism, cooperation and solidarity," she said.

"I call on all Governments that use sanctions as foreign-relation tools to immediately withdraw measures aimed at establishing trade barriers, and ban tariffs, quotas, non-tariff measures, including those which prevent financing the purchase of medicine, medical equipment, food, other essential goods," said the UN expert. "Sanctioned countries are especially hard-hit as they cannot use their revenues to purchase imports of equipment, medicines, antiviral and food from global markets,"

"The pandemic is triggering a serious economic crisis with serious negative humanitarian effects, especially for the most vulnerable ones in the poorest sectors of the population: women, elderly, youth, and children," "I reiterate my predecessor's long standing position that the use of economic sanctions for political purposes violates human rights and the norms of international behaviour. As earlier as May 2019, he warned that such actions may precipitate man-made humanitarian catastrophes of unprecedented proportions.

Human Rights Watch also released a report urging the United States to ease sanctions on Iran because of the negative impact they are having on the country’s ability to control and treat COVID-19.  While the US government has built exemptions for humanitarian imports into its sanctions regime, Human Rights Watch research in October 2019 found that in practice, these exemptions have failed to offset the strong reluctance of US and European companies and banks to risk incurring sanctions and legal action by exporting or financing exempted humanitarian goods.

Under international law, a country or coalition of states enforcing economic sanctions should consider the impact on the human rights of the affected population, especially regarding their access to goods essential to life, including medicines and food. “The US government should ensure that financial sanctions imposed on Iran are clearly and publicly interpreted to permit the shipment of anything the Iranian people need to protect themselves from the coronavirus,” said Kenneth Roth, Executive Director at Human Rights Watch.


According to Relief International, “one of the problems for international aid has been to clarify the legal issues related to sanctions to ensure that medical supplies and medicines can be brought into Iran. This slowed down the health response in the first weeks of the outbreak. Relief International is uniquely positioned to respond by importing goods into the country through our OFAC license for humanitarian purposes. Our teams are working non-stop to bring internationally-sourced medical protective supplies, diagnostic test kits, and medication into the country amid a global shortage,” shares Olivier Vandecasteele, Relief International’s Country Director for Iran.

The US embargo not only prohibits American companies and individuals from conducting lawful trade with Iranian counterparts, but given that the sanctions are extra-territorial, all other countries and companies are also bullied into refraining from doing legitimate business with Iranians, even the selling of medicines. Of equal importance, it must be recognised that as long as the general consensus in international politics does not actively move toward reducing injustice and inequality beyond national and racial boundaries, global crises will continue to indiscriminately endanger every country in the world. The world cannot go on like this. If global leaders fail to seize the opportunity to embrace change, we will all continue to remain highly vulnerable to communicable diseases, environmental catastrophes, global warming, terrorism, violent extremism and other shared threats.



“ Human Rights experts are calling for the lifting of sanctions ”