Consequences of sanctions

Monday, 2020-08-10 17:28:09
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A boy stands in a disadvantaged neighbourhood of Ahvaz, Iran. The country is among those being subjected to international sanctions, despite the ravages of COVID-19. (Photo:
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NDO – A group of UN independent human rights experts have called on countries to lift or at least ease sanctions to allow affected nations and communities access to vital supplies to fight against the global coronavirus pandemic. The above appeal was made in the recent context of the “punishment stick” seeming to be overused by major countries, causing unpredictable consequences.

People in countries under sanctions cannot protect themselves against the disease or get life-saving treatments if they fall ill because humanitarian exemptions to the sanctions are not working, experts said in a recent press release.

Meanwhile, water, soap, and electricity needed by hospitals, fuel for delivering vital goods, and food, are all in short supply because of the sanctions.

“Sanctions are bringing suffering and death in countries like Cuba, Iran, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen”, said Alena Douhan, special rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights and one of the experts highlighting the issue.

People in Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen are facing humanitarian disasters, hardship and deprivation due to wars, disease, and sanctions imposed by Western countries. According to a UN report, two million children in Yemen are suffering from acute malnutrition. Nearly four million people in the country have had to leave their homes. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 epidemic has continued to rage in the country with thousands of people infected since the beginning of the year.

In another country exhausted by war and sanctions, Syria, the risk of a humanitarian crisis is also increasing. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has warned that a terrible humanitarian crisis could occur in the northeastern region of Syria due to a lack of food and water. Medical supplies are also running out. Meanwhile, there are currently over 11 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in Syria.

Other countries such as Cuba, Venezuela, and Iran have also become “victims of sanctions”. Sanctions imposed by the US and Western countries have stifled the economies of these countries, resulting in a lack of essential goods. The US has enacted many sanctions on economic sectors to block income from the oil of Iran. Sanctions have been re-established in the past few years, since US President D. Trump unilaterally withdrew from a nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) signed by the P5+1 and Iran.

The international community has repeatedly called for the US to lift sanctions, especially those aimed at Syria. In a statement released over the weekend, the UN group of experts strongly criticized how sanctions imposed supposedly in the name of delivering human rights are in fact killing people and depriving them of their fundamental rights, including the rights to health, to food and to life itself.

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the world for more than half a year, at the same time exposing more the gloomy picture of the global humanitarian crisis. All countries, businesses and people had to adjust their policies and behaviours to suit the "new normal". And it is time major countries adjusted their punishment sticks.