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Human Rights Watch says US sanctions violate Iranians’ right to health

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The “maximum pressure” strategy of the Trump administration to impose broad sanctions on Iran poses a serious threat to the Iranian people’s right to health and access to essential medicine, insists a new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

According to HRW, extensive restrictions on financial transactions have contributed to significant difficulties for Iranian entities which fund humanitarian imports.

The latter include life-saving medicines such as drugs for epilepsy patients and chemotherapy medication for those suffering from cancer. This is despite the US government claiming to make exemptions for humanitarian purposes from the sanctions that it has imposed on Iran.

The report states that the sanctions have discouraged many international banks and companies from dealing with the Islamic Republic, over fears of invoking secondary US sanctions on themselves.

As a result, Iranians’ access to essential medicine and their right to health is being negatively impacted, and may well worsen if the situation remains unchanged, potentially threatening the health of millions of people.

Furthermore, President Donald Trump’s rhetoric and frequent use of “terrorist” designations poses additional impediments to humanitarian trade with Iran. In April, for example, the Trump administration designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a “terrorist” organisation.

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“Administration officials claim they stand with the Iranian people, but the overbroad and burdensome US sanctions regime is harming Iranians’ right to health, including access to live-saving medicines,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at HRW.

“The comprehensive web of US sanctions has led banks and companies to pull back from humanitarian trade with Iran, leaving Iranians who have rare or complicated diseases unable to get the medicine and treatment they require.”

HRW suggested that the US government should work to establish viable financial channels for humanitarian trade with Iran and take immediate steps to ensure that humanitarian exemptions are effective in facilitating Iranians’ access to medicine and medical equipment.

“Ordinary Iranians are bearing the brunt of America’s sanctions policy, and their hearts and minds will be keeping tabs on the parties that are causing them harm,” added Whitson.

Earlier this year, speaking of the US President’s stance towards the people of Iran, Vice President Mike Pence said, “This is a president who hopes for the best for the Iranian people… but we will stand up to their provocations.”

The right to health is one of a set of internationally agreed human rights standards and forms part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of oneself and one’s family, including food, clothing, housing, and medical care.”

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