Tehran, 19 May, 2022.- The complex set of unilateral sanctions against Iran, coupled with secondary sanctions against third-parties, overcompliance and zero-risking policies by businesses and financial institutions, exacerbate existing humanitarian and economic challenges and negatively affect the lives of the people, in particular the most vulnerable, a UN human rights expert said.
At the end of a 12-day visit to Iran, Alena Douhan, the Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures (UCMs) on the enjoyment of human rights, said that she had heard disturbing accounts from patients suffering from rare diseases and people with disabilities on the challenges they faced in accessing medicines and assistive equipment.
“I am gravely concerned about the life-threating consequences of the high costs and in certain cases complete absence of specialised medicines and medical equipment due to sanctions-induced trade and financial restrictions, as well as due to reported foreign companies’ reluctance to supply these goods for fear of consequences, including possible criminal prosecution and financial penalties,” she said.
“Sanctions imposed on Iran’s key economic sectors, and designation of its financial institutions, along with numerous national companies has led to severe drop of State revenues, inflation, growing poverty rates, and scarcity of resources to guarantee the basic needs of those most in need,” added Douhan.
In a statement, the Special Rapporteur highlighted several other areas impacted by the combination of unilateral sanctions and overcompliance, including but not limited to the preservation and further development of essential infrastructure; the difficulties to expand social support programmes in the context of rising prices and unemployment rates, including in support of the growing population of Afghan refugees; impediments in the business and industrial development due to absence of raw materials, inability to process international payments, and restrictions in accessing new technologies; deterioration of environmental security; challenges regarding natural disaster prevention, response and recovery, due to the bans of imports of specialised equipment and humanitarian provisions; rising challenges in the operations of international and local non-governmental organisations and humanitarian actors; obstacles to Iran’s engagement in international cooperation, including in the academia, arts and cultural heritage, sports, and its overall engagement with international organisations and associations due to travel bans and the inability to process payments of membership fees.
The independent expert expressed concerns that the existing unilateral sanctions as a punitive action violate, at the very least, obligations arising from universal and regional human rights instruments, many of which have a peremptory character, including procedural guarantees and presumption of innocence.
“States have an obligation under international human rights law to guarantee that any activity under their jurisdiction or control does not result in human rights violations, and in this regard I call on sanctioning States, in particular the United States, to observe the principles and norms of international law, including with regard to the peaceful settlement of international disputes and to lift all unilateral measures, in particular on those areas affecting the human rights and the lives of all the people in Iran,” Douhan said.
Other recommendations addressed the issue of overcompliance by businesses and financial institutions; access to information and new technologies; enhanced engagement by international organisations for humanitarian purposes and for the continuous monitoring of the negative impact of UCMs on the enjoyment of human rights; unfreezing of the foreign assets of Iranian financial institutions; multistakeholder discussions towards the development of guiding principles on secondary sanctions, over-compliance and human rights, as well of possible mechanisms for redress, remedy and compensation.
Despite the Government’s efforts and measures to mitigate the negative impact of UCMs in different sectors, especially for the most vulnerable population categories, sanctions-induced economic hardships coupled with the persistent effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have multifaceted and cumulative effects in all walks of life. The Special Rapporteur stressed that while Iran`s measures reduced the direct impact on human rights, it shall not be used as a ground to legitimize and legalize the use of unilateral sanctions.
Douhan met representatives from national and local government institutions, non-governmental organisations, associations, humanitarian actors, businesses, UN entities, academia as well as the diplomatic community. In addition to the capital Tehran, she also visited Karaj and Isfahan.
The Special Rapporteur will present a report to the Human Rights Council in September 2022.