United Nations (UN) human rights experts on Saturday said that people in countries under sanctions cannot protect themselves against Covid-19 or get life-saving treatment if they fall ill because humanitarian exemptions to the sanctions are not working.
The experts made the statement in a news release issued by the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on Friday
The UN experts said, "We renew our call for sanctioning countries to urgently lift, suspend or minimize their sanctions so that medicine, medical equipment, food and fuel can get through,"
They welcomed efforts by many states, intergovernmental organizations and nongovernmental organizations to try to help sanctioned countries fight Covid-19.
"We particularly welcome the willingness of the European Union, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Russia, China, the United States and other donors to ship much needed medical supplies," said the experts.
Special rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights at the UN, Alena Douhan said, "Sanctions are bringing suffering and death in countries like Cuba, Iran, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen,"
"Sanctions should be lifted – or at a minimum eased – so people can get basics like soap and disinfectants to stay healthy, and so that hospitals can get ventilators and other equipment to keep people alive," added Alena.
Nothing has improved, she said, since she called in April for lifting of all unilateral sanctions that prevent sanctioned states from adequately fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, or since the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies made a similar appeal.
"Sanctions that were imposed in the name of delivering human rights are in fact killing people and depriving them of fundamental rights, including the rights to health, to food and to life itself," said Douhan and other UN experts. Water, soap, and electricity needed by hospitals, fuel for delivering vital goods, and food are all in short supply because of the sanctions.
However, in place of time-consuming and often costly procedures for getting humanitarian exemptions to sanctions, the UN experts said exemptions should be granted on the presumption that the stated purpose is actually humanitarian, with a burden of proof on others to show it is not.
"To guarantee human rights and solidarity in the course of the pandemic, licenses for delivery of humanitarian aid should be provided in the easiest way – preferably automatically upon request," said Douhan
"Individuals and humanitarian organizations involved in the delivery of such aid should in no way be subjected to secondary sanctions," she added.
Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world.
Special Procedures' experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.