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HRW claims US sanctions threatening Iranians’ health

Iranian authorities at the Great Conference of Basij, Oct. 4 2018. (Ali Khamenei/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) says U.S. sanctions imposed on Iran have “drastically constrained” the country’s ability to finance humanitarian imports and are threatening Iranians’ right to health.

In a report released on October 29, HRW urged U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration to “take immediate steps to ensure a viable channel exists” for trade of vital medicines, medical equipment, and other humanitarian goods with Iran.

Trump last year withdrew the United States from a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers, and has since reimposed and expanded punishing sanctions as part of a stated campaign of “maximum pressure” against Iran.

While Washington has built exemptions for humanitarian imports into its sanctions regime, in practice U.S. and European companies and banks have been strongly reluctant to “risk incurring sanctions and legal action by exporting or financing exempted humanitarian goods,” according to HRW.

‘Aggressive Rhetoric’

Its report, titled “‘Maximum Pressure:’ U.S. Economic Sanctions Harm Iranians’ Right To Health,” documents how restrictions on financial transactions, coupled with “aggressive rhetoric” from U.S. officials, have caused “unnecessary suffering to Iranian citizens afflicted with a range of diseases and medical conditions.”

The report said that some of the worst affected were “Iranians who have rare diseases and/or conditions that require specialized treatment and are unable to acquire previously available medicines or supplies,” including patients with leukemia, epilepsy, and chronic eye injuries from exposure to chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war.

Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at HRW, called on the United States to “get serious about addressing the harm resulting from its cruel sanctions regime.”

Washington should create “a viable financial channel with reasonable requirements for companies, banks, and groups to provide humanitarian goods for people in Iran instead of requiring more burdensome hurdles,” Whitson said.