AGENCIES, New York: United Nations rights chief Michelle Bachelet called on Tuesday for any sanctions imposed on countries like Iran facing the new coronavirus pandemic to be “urgently re-evaluated” to avoid pushing strained medical systems into collapse. Iran, one of the hardest-hit countries in the pandemic with nearly 2,000 deaths is facing severe stress in its healthcare set-up due to economic sanctions on it.
“At this crucial time, both for global public health reasons, and to support the rights and lives of millions of people in these countries, sectoral sanctions should be eased or suspended,” Bachelet said.
“In a context of global pandemic, impeding medical efforts in one country heightens the risk for all of us,” she said.
Bachelet insisted “humanitarian exemptions to sanctions measures should be given broad and practical effect, with prompt, flexible authorisation for essential medical equipment and supplies.”
Her comments came as the number of cases of COVID-19 approached 400,000 worldwide, including nearly 17,000 deaths, according to an AFP tally using official sources.
Bachelet pointed in particular to the case of Iran. Bachelet’s office stressed that more than 50 Iranian medics had died since the first COVID-19 case was detected in the country five weeks ago. She warned that Iran’s epidemic was also spreading to neighbouring Afghanistan and Pakistan, putting a strain on their fragile health systems as well.
The UN rights chief stressed that “the populations in these countries are in no way responsible for the policies being targeted by sanctions, and to varying degrees have already been living in a precarious situation for prolonged periods.”
“No country can effectively combat this epidemic on its own,” she said. “We need to act with solidarity, cooperation and care.”