A group of independent human rights experts at the United Nations have called on countries to lift -- or at the very least, ease -- sanctions to allow affected nations and communities to access vital supplies during the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
"We renew our call for sanctioning countries to urgently lift, suspend or minimise their sanctions so that medicine, medical equipment, food and fuel can get through," they said.
People in countries under sanctions cannot protect themselves against the disease or get life-saving treatment if they fall ill because humanitarian exemptions to the sanctions are not working, the experts said in a news release on Friday.
Those making the appeal include: Alena Douhan, special rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights; Obiora Okafor, the independent expert on human rights and international solidarity; Tlaleng Mofokeng, special rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health; Michael Fakhri, special rapporteur on the right to food; and Agnès Callamard, special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.
"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", they said.
Water, soap, and electricity needed by hospitals, fuel for delivering vital goods, and food, are all in short supply because of the sanctions, the release read.
"Sanctions are bringing suffering and death in countries like Cuba, Iran, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen", said Alena Douhan.
Nothing has improved since her appeal in April for lifting of all unilateral sanctions that prevent sanctioned states from adequately fighting the pandemic, or since the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies made a similar appeal, Douhan said.
The experts welcomed the many states, intergovernmental organisations and non-governmental organisations for their efforts 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," they said.
The UN experts also 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," Douhan said.
"Individuals and humanitarian organisations involved in the delivery of such aid should in no way be subjected to secondary sanctions," she stressed.
The special rapporteurs and independent experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council.
The experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary. They are independent from any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.