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UN warns against harsh effects of sanctions on civilians

Sanctions must not degenerate into blockades which expose innocent people to the ravages of economic war in peacetime without the protection of the Geneva Conventions aimed at safeguarding civilians in war time, says Idriss Jazairy, the UN Special Rapporteur on the effect of sanctions on human rights.

“While sanctions have usually led to countries, or groups of countries, refusing to trade with the targeted State, the imposition of blockades has the additional sting of preventing trade with other willing trade partners,” said Mr. Jazairy in a presentation to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The Special Rapporteur told the Council there was a clear risk that Iran, Syria, Gaza and possibly Venezuela were having to cope with a blockade situation.

“There is a need for differences between States to be resolved through peaceful means as advocated by the UN Charter, while avoiding exposing innocent civilians to collective punishment,” he said.

The Special Rapporteur expressed concern about the increasing resort to unilateral sanctions, and in particular the banning of business or trade with companies and corporations from third party countries not involved in imposing the measures.

Mr. Jazairy also reported on his mission to Brussels for talks with European Union officials. While welcoming efforts made by the EU to ensure its restrictive measures have due process and human rights protections, the Special Rapporteur urged the EU to consider ways of limiting the extra-territorial effect of “secondary sanctions” which go beyond the targeted country.

With regard to Syria, the Special Rapporteur concluded that however grave the human rights situation is in the country, the imposition of further suffering on innocent civilians through unilateral sanctions only further worsens their situation. He said he would focus on making humanitarian exceptions to internationally imposed measures effective, until States lift all sanctions that are harming human rights.

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