Tuesday, 22 September, 2020

US Sanctions against Iran as Crimes against Humanity

Following the withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) dated 08 May 2018, the United States re-imposed its unilateral sanctions against Iran. They constitute an integral part of the US maximum pressure campaign, which target both Iranian Government, as well as the population.

The outbreak of COVID-19 intensified the adverse effects of sanctions on ordinary people more than before, by at least, limiting considerably their access to medicine and other resources required to confront the disease and its rapid spread. Pandemic of COVID-19 as a global problem needs a global solution. Many world leaders called for solidarity and joint responsibility. As an example, the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Guterres in March 2020 said: “Global solidarity is not only a moral imperative, it is in everyone’s interests.”1 A group of UN Experts2 similarly asked sanctioning countries to urgently lift, suspend or minimize their sanctions so that medicine, medical equipment, food and fuel can get through. In place of
time-consuming and often costly procedures for getting humanitarian exemptions to sanctions, the UN experts said “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.”

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet also in March 2020 demanded an easing of sanction to enable medical systems of countries to fight the disease. According to Bachelet, “At this crucial time, both for global public health reasons, and to support the rights and lives of millions of people in these countries, sectoral sanctions should be eased or suspended. In a context of global pandemic, impeding medical efforts in one country heightens the risk for all of us.”

Contrary to these calls, the US sanctions against Iran were not only lifted during this period, but intensified. The US Government also blocked Iran’s requested $5 billion emergency loan from the International Monetary Fund to fight coronavirus crisis.

The effects of sanctions on population have been so grave and widespread that they may be considered as to be tantamount to crimes against humanity. Article 7 (1) of the Rome Statute defines crimes against humanity and stipulates that these international crimes occurs where either of its two conditions, namely being widespread or systematic.

The US sanctions against Iran have been designed and implemented in such a way that both conditions are undoubtedly fulfilled. They are widespread, as they have been applied on the whole nation indiscriminately. In practice, no one is exempt from the sanctions. The US Government claims that it has kept a humanitarian window open in its sanction’s regime and sanctions do not impede humanitarian goods and services to Iran.4 However, the reality shows that no humanitarian goods and services can go through the existing bureaucratic maze.

Humanitarian exceptions need practical and workable arrangements. Medical items are apparently exempted from the sanction regime, but the bureaucratic hurdles and licencing procedures practically limit the access to those items in direct and indirect ways. Banking sanctions sever the trade relations with the external world that create drug shortages.

The US sanctions have been applied on Iranian population systematically. The Sanctions have been designed to cut off Iranian’s access to economic resources. The US sanctions against Iran have been designed in a way that infliction of direct suffering upon ordinary people is a part of their
architecture. The US Government is hoping that the sanctions and maximum pressures create public discontent with the Government and thus instability in Iran. In this regard, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo openly told BBC that the Iranian “leadership has to make a decision that they want their people to eat.”

The US is aware that in the circumstances created by its unilateral sanctions of extra-territorial effect there is no chance and possibility for Iranians to purchase what is necessary purely for medical purposes. A part of this body of evidence was shared with the US in the case of Alleged Violations of the 1955 Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations, and Consular Rights (Islamic Republic of Iran v. United States of America) before the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The ICJ unanimously ordered the US to remove any impediments to the free exportation to the territory of Iran of, inter alia, medicines and medical devices.

As showed above, both conditions for crimes against humanity have been met simultaneously and the US Government is fully aware of the effects on the ordinary people of its unilateral sanctions against Iran. It is also deliberately using the pandemic to intensify these effects for furthering its
malign purposes. The international community as whole and many states collectively and individually have opposed the reimposition of the US unilateral sanctions against Iran. They also expressed concern on the
adverse impacts of the sanctions on Iranian population. However the gravity of the crime and the critical situation of the pandemic require that all states and conscientious individuals to be clear in categorially rejecting these criminal acts of the US and take the necessary measures to offset the
tragic consequences of the US illegal and unilateral sanctions against Iran.

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