Unilateral sanctions ‘suffocate’ civilians in Syria – UN rights expert

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Unilateral sanctions against Syria are exacerbating the trauma suffered by ordinary citizens since the brutal war began there in 2011, a UN-appointed independent human rights expert on Thursday (10 Nov.).

In a statement following a 12-day visit to the country, Alena Douhan, Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights has presented detailed information on the catastrophic effects of sanctions on all aspects of life.

“I am struck by the pervasiveness of the human rights and humanitarian impact of the unilateral coercive measures imposed on Syria, and the total economic and financial isolation of a country whose people are struggling to rebuild a life with dignity”, said Ms. Douhan.

Currently, 90% of Syria’s population is living below the poverty line, she said, pointing to their limited access to food, water, electricity, shelter, cooking and heating fuel, transportation, and healthcare.

Moreover, growing economic hardship threatens to trigger a massive brain-drain in the country.

“With more than half of the vital infrastructure either completely destroyed or severely damaged, the imposition of unilateral sanctions on key economic sectors, including oil, gas, electricity, trade, construction and engineering have quashed national income, and undermine efforts towards economic recovery and reconstruction,” she said.

At the same time, blocking bank payments and refusing deliveries by foreign producers, coupled with sanctions-induced limited foreign currency reserves, have caused serious shortages in medicines and specialized medical equipment, particularly to treat chronic and rare diseases.

And due to the unavailability of equipment and spare parts, Ms. Douhan warned that the rehabilitation and development of water distribution networks for drinking, and irrigation, has stalled, with serious implications for public health and food security.

“In the current dramatic and still-deteriorating humanitarian situation as 12 million Syrians grapple with food insecurity, I urge the immediate lifting of all unilateral sanctions that severely harm human rights and prevent any efforts for early recovery, rebuilding and reconstruction,” said.

“No reference to good objectives of unilateral sanctions justifies the violation of fundamental human rights. The international community has an obligation of solidarity and assistance to the Syrian people.”

The Special Rapporteur also highlighted the negative effects of sanctions on international cooperation in science, arts, sports, national cultural heritage and artifacts preservation.

Additionally, she drew attention to their harmful impact on access to new technologies, online information platforms, crime fighting capacity and security across the region, as well as the issue of frozen foreign assets of Syrian financial institutions and other entities.

“I urge the international community and the sanctioning States in particular, to pay heed to the devastating effects of sanctions and to take prompt and concrete steps to address over-compliance by businesses and banks in accordance with international human right law,” aid the UN rights expert.

Quoting one view she had heard expressed many times, she said: “I saw much suffering, but now I see the hope die.”

During her visit, the UN expert met representatives from government institutions, non-governmental organizations, humanitarian actors, businesses, faith-based organizations and the diplomatic community.

In addition to the capital Damascus, she visited Homs city, rural Homs, and rural Damascus.

Ms. Douhan will present a report to the Human Rights Council next September. (Source: UN News)

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