Punishment of ‘innocent civilians’ through government sanctions must end: UN experts

Amalendu Upadhyaya
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Unilateral sanctions impinge on the right to development – UN experts

Unilateral coercive measures by some governments are denying many people around the world the right to personal development, as well as holding back sustainable national development, four independent UN human rights experts said on Wednesday.

New Delhi (12 August 2021) – Many people around the world are being denied the right to development – both their countries’ economic improvement and their own personal development – because of unilateral coercive measures, independent experts appointed by the Human Rights Council said yesterday.

The experts called on countries that impose unilateral sanctions to withdraw or at least to minimize them to guarantee that the rule of law and human rights, including the right to development, are not affected.

“The precautionary principle should be applied by States when unilateral sanctions are taken to avoid any negative humanitarian impact on the whole scope of human rights, including the right to development,” the experts said. “The punishment of innocent civilians must end.

“The General Assembly has declared the right to development to be an inalienable human right, and it is recognized as such by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Arab Charter on Human Rights and a range of multilateral human rights declarations.”

Extraterritorial application of sanctions, secondary sanctions, national civil and criminal penalties aimed at implementing unilateral sanctions which result in over-compliance, exacerbate and expand their impact to every individual or company in targeted societies, third-country nationals and companies, humanitarian organizations, donors and beneficiaries of humanitarian aid, the experts said.

“Sanctions hold countries back from development, they hold back people as well, and in a globalizing world, that hurts everyone,” the experts said.

“Sanctions make it harder for entire populations to stay healthy and hamper the transportation of goods needed for economic development, result in the waste of natural resources, undermine environmental sustainability and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals,” experts said. “Activities essential to every country’s development suffer when unilateral sanctions are imposed.”

The experts said people in targeted countries like Venezuela, Cuba, Syria and Iran sink into poverty because they cannot get essential services like electricity, housing, water, gas and fuel, let alone medicine and food.

When U.S. sanctions block teleconferencing and data services in these countries and elsewhere, people are cut off from webinars and online meetings for information, exchanges, education and training, and doctors cannot consult medical databases, said the experts.

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