UN Special Rapporteur on Iran calls for easing of US sanctions on Iran.
US sanctions have crippled Iran's healthcare sector, contributing to Tehran's "inadequate and opaque" Covid-19 response, says the UN Special Rapporteur in a report.
The pandemic has caused 60,000 deaths in Iran, as of March 1, 2021.
"The Government has faced significant difficulties in containing the virus, in part due to the weakening of the national health-care system and the wider economy,” the report citing the UN’s Special Rapporteur Javaid Rehman’s observations said, adding that the UN Secretary-General has been sharing the same concerns.
In the face of banking restrictions and sanctions, the Iranian government withdrew $1.1 billion from the National Development Fund. The health sector however received only 27 percent of the allocated amount as of September 29, 2020.”
This caused difficulty in addressing shortages of medical supplies at a time when the pandemic was raging in the country. On the other hand, American sanctions blocked Iran from importing medical items.
Iran's healthcare system is in shambles as the unpaid frontline workers are doing additional shifts, facing insulin shortages and an influx of at least 4.5 million diabetic patients, who need daily insulin jabs. The mortality rate in the country is one of the world’s highest since the beginning of the pandemic.
Rehman holds the US responsible for adding strain to Iran's healthcare sector, which was already reeling from the effects of severe sanctions imposed by the US in 2018. The failure to minimize the impact of the pandemic, according to Rehman, was a "cumulative effect of sanctions".
Iran has been asking the US to lift sanctions on humanitarian grounds since last year, but the previous US President Donald Trump instead responded even more harshly, introducing around 50 new measures to tighten the stranglehold on Iran. Hoping that the new US administration will take a different approach, the Shia-majority republic has been calling on President Joe Biden to make amends to the US policy vis-a-vis Iran. But the new administration seems unmoved as no signals were made to suggest that it would ease Trump's maximum pressure campaign. Humanitarian organisations, including Human Rights Watch, have been campaigning for Iran, asking the US to ease or lift the sanctions to ensure access to essential resources.
With no relief in sight, Iran felt compelled to forge new alliances. It partnered with Cuba, another country hit by US sanctions, to secure coronavirus vaccines.
During the Human Rights Council session, where Rehman stated his concerns regarding the impact of the US sanctions, Iran has denied the Special Rapporteur’s evaluation, which called Tehran's response to the pandemic inadequate.
Its representative said the maintenance of unprecedented unilateral sanctions by the current US government was in defiance of basic humanity, especially in light of the pandemic.
Iran said while the sanctions are "brutal and unlawful", the Special Rapporteur's criticism of Iran was not justified. For Tehran, it's the US that is to be blamed.
Concerns regarding rights during the pandemic
The UN Rapporteur says the economic and social rights were also negatively impacted by the US sanctions during the pandemic, especially relating to protecting detainees in overcrowded and unhygienic prisons where the conditions have worsened since last year.
While welcoming the release of some human rights defenders and protesters, the high execution rate in the Shia-majority country, particularly at the recent implementation of the death penalty against protesters is alarming, Rehman said.
Eighteen months ago, the government's use of lethal force against the protesters caused the death of 304 people. The Iranian administration's failure to conduct an independent and transparent investigation into the violent State response was also another concern that requires the Human Rights Council’s attention, the report said.