A group of independent UN human rights experts have called on countries to lift, or at least ease, sanctions to allow affected countries and communities access to vital supplies needed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a press release on Friday, the experts said that people in sanctioned countries, including Syria, cannot protect themselves from disease or get life-saving treatment if they fall ill, because the humanitarian exemptions from sanctions are ineffective.
The experts said, “The sanctions imposed in the name of realizing human rights in reality kill people and deprive them of their basic rights, including the right to health, food and the right to life itself”.
Experts stressed that the water, soap and electricity that hospitals need, and fuel to deliver vital goods and food are all suffering from a shortage of supplies due to the sanctions.
Alina Dohan, the special rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, said that sanctions are causing suffering and death in countries such as Cuba, Iran, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen.
Duhan added that there has been no improvement since her appeal in April to lift all unilateral sanctions that prevent sanctioned countries from adequately fighting COVID-19, or since the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies made a similar appeal.
Instead of time-consuming and often costly procedures to obtain humanitarian exemptions from sanctions, experts said waivers should be granted on the assumption that the purpose is in fact humanitarian, away from the burden of proving the opposite.
“To ensure human rights and solidarity during the pandemic, permissions should be given to deliver humanitarian aid in the easiest way – preferably automatically upon request,” said Ms. Dohan.
Dohan stressed that “in no way should individuals and humanitarian organizations involved in the delivery of such aid be subject to secondary sanctions”.
It should be noted that America imposed many sanctions on Syria, the last of which was the so-called Caesar Act.