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Civilians suffering due to sanctions must be spared 'collective punishment': UN rights expert

Press Trust of India  |  United Nations 

Innocent civilians must not face "collective punishment" in disputes between two States, a expert has said, calling for greater protection for ordinary people affected by punitive sanctions imposed by one country on another.

Idriss Jazairy, the UN Special Rapporteur on effects of sanctions on human rights, said that measures that seek to block a country's trade altogether, amount to economic warfare against civilians, with devastating consequences.

"Under economic sanctions, people also die but from lack of and medicine, rather than from explosive devices," said the UN rights expert in a release on Thursday.

This form of warfare that relies on and "deserves the same concern" on the part of the international community as any other conflict, he added, noting protections guaranteed under the Fourth Convention, which applies during times of war.

Referring to Iran, Jazairy said that while US sanctions - fully re-imposed earlier this week - included humanitarian exemptions, aid is currently frozen as businesses await more clarification from the There are reports that the SWIFT mechanism of could make such exemptions inoperative.

India, and are among eight countries temporarily allowed to continue buying Iranian as they showed "significant reduction" in purchase from the country after the US reimposed crippling sanctions on Tehran, said on Monday as the stringent sanctions kicked in.

Import of food, medicine and other necessities must be protected and not subjected to lengthy and complex approval processes, Jazairy reiterated.

"I am deeply concerned that it is the poor who are bearing the brunt of these actions," he said, adding that Iran's currency, the rial, had lost more than 70 per cent of its value in the past year, and prices had risen by half.

"More people are losing their jobs as the economy suffers," he said.

Jazairy noted that while States' right to disagree with each other should be respected, civilians must not be harmed or used as means of "political pressure" on a targeted Government.

"This is illegal under international law," he said.

Jazairy said he is ready to "serve as facilitator" to assist the US and "in finding concrete ways to ensure that urgently needed humanitarian exemptions whose observance is unchallenged by the source country, are made effective and workable."

UN Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary, and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, November 09 2018. 10:10 IST