Civilians caught in sanctions crossfire need protection

Friday, 9 November 2018, 11:54 am
Press Release: United Nations

Civilians caught in sanctions crossfire need Geneva
Convention protection, says UN expert

November 2018) – Sanctions that extend beyond national
borders, and which seek to block a country’s trade
altogether, amount to economic warfare against civilians, an
independent expert appointed by the Human Rights Council

“These civilians deserve the same protections
provided by the Geneva Conventions to people in war,” said
Idriss Jazairy, the Special Rapporteur on the effect of
sanctions on human rights.

“There is a need for
differences between States to be resolved through peaceful
means as advocated by the UN Charter, while avoiding
exposing innocent civilians to collective punishment.
Causing hunger and disease through economic instruments
should not be accepted in the 21st century.”

Referring to Iran, Jazairy said while US sanctions
included humanitarian exemptions, there were reports that
aid is on hold as banks, insurance and logistics companies
await clarification. It has even been said that the source
country of sanctions will block the SWIFT technical
mechanism of international interbank financial transfer
which may make such exemptions inoperative.

can be no justification for not including blanket
protections for the importation of food, medicine, and other
necessities of life without first requiring lengthy and
complex approval processes,” the expert said. The
International Court of Justice had recently made two
preliminary rulings that reiterate the obligation of States
to ensure effective humanitarian exemptions while sanctions
are in force.

“I am deeply concerned that it is the
poor who are bearing the brunt of these actions,” Jazairy
said, adding that the rial currency had lost more than 70
percent of its value in the past year, and food prices had
risen by half. “More people are losing their jobs as the
economy suffers,” he said.

“While the right of
States to disagree with each other should be respected,
harming the human rights of ordinary civilians should not be
resorted to as a means of political pressure on a targeted
Government,” he said. “This is illegal under
international human rights law.”

When an economic
blockade is imposed, adequate food, medicines, public health
and other humanitarian needs must be ensured, he said.
“The Fourth Geneva Convention provides such protections
during times of war,” Jazairy said. “Under economic
sanctions, people also die but from lack of food and
medicine, rather than from explosive devices. This form of
warfare that relies on starvation and disease deserves the
same concern from the international community as any other

States should adopt a declaration which
ends such practices, and protects civilians during economic

“I am ready to serve as facilitator to
assist the United States and Iran in finding concrete ways
to ensure that urgently needed humanitarian exemptions whose
observance is unchallenged by the source country, are made
effective and workable,” Jazairy said.


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