The big losers from unilateral sanctions are women, children and vulnerable groups

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Unilateral sanctions are especially harmful to the human rights of women, children and other vulnerable groups of the populations of the countries subject to sanctions, declared this Wednesday the special rapporteur * on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of the human rights. .

“We already know that unilateral sanctions prevent the populations of the target countries from fully enjoying their human rights; and that the impact is especially severe for vulnerable groups, “said Alena Douhan.

“In addition to women and children, these groups include indigenous people, people with disabilities, refugees, internally displaced people, migrants, people living in poverty, the elderly, people affected by serious diseases and others. people who face particular challenges in society, “added the expert.

Douhan recalled that vulnerable groups are often the most dependent on social or humanitarian aid, but that this cannot be provided, despite existing exemptions, due to sanctions.

Unilateral sanctions provoke reservations in financial institutions

“The complexity of the sanctions regulations, together with the extraterritorial application and heavy sanctions, have caused entities to go overboard in complying with unilateral sanctions for fear of the consequences of inadvertent infractions,” said Douhan.

The expert pointed out that due to this situation “banks are reluctant to finance aid or process transactions for humanitarian purchases, and transport companies refuse to handle shipments of humanitarian goods. On occasion, humanitarian organizations have stopped operating in sanctioned countries due to these difficulties, “he explained.

The Special Rapporteur noted that sanctions often include fuel embargoes and prevent sanctioned countries from obtaining parts to maintain vital infrastructure for daily life, such as food, water, sanitation, health and electricity supply systems.

When a country cannot get fuel, medicines and medical equipment cannot be delivered and people cannot go to hospitals to receive medical attention, such as tests and check-ups during pregnancies, childbirth, vaccination of children and medical attention ”, he highlighted.

“In addition to preventing the transport of people and goods such as food, the lack of fuel and the inability to get spare parts affects the obtaining of electricity, preventing electric pumps from supplying water for drinking and sanitation,” he added.

UNICEF

A boy in a poor neighborhood in the Iranian city of Ahvaz. The country is among those subject to unilateral sanctions.

Women, one of the worst affected groups

“Women, in particular, are greatly affected. They are the ones who often have to fetch drinking water for their families, and when sanctions cause a decline in economic activity they are often the first to lose their jobs and become the target of traffickers for their sexual exploitation. “

Douhan pointed out that this circumstance can cause a country to move backwards in the development ladder, and warned that it can represent a great threat that prevents the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals that seek to improve the lives of all people, especially that of women. , girls, the elderly and people with serious or chronic illnesses.

“From a human rights perspective, I reiterate my call to the United Nations, NGOs and other humanitarian actors to focus their attention on vulnerable groups in sanctioned countries through continuous monitoring and evaluation of the consequences of sanctions. they have on human rights, “he said.

Finally, the rapporteur asked “the States and Governments that impose unilateral sanctions on:

  • raise or minimize them, as required by international law
  • take all necessary measures to prevent unilateral sanctions from having adverse effects on human rights
  • take all necessary steps to avoid over-compliance with sanctions regimes
  • provide more far-reaching exemptions and simpler procedures, as well as facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid, despite sanctions regimes

*The special rapporteurs are part of the “Special Procedures”, the largest body of independent experts in the UN human rights system, which brings together the investigation and monitoring mechanisms established by the Human Rights Council to address specific situations in countries or issues. themed around the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; They are not UN personnel and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent of any government or organization and act in their individual capacity.

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