Sanctions put human rights in crosshairs
Anelise Borges, a Euronews international correspondent, told a tragic story from Teheran on Sept 11 about a 7-year-old Iranian boy who needs a bone marrow transplant to cure a deadly genetic disease known as adrenoleukodystrophy.
ALD is a result of fatty acid buildup caused by enzymes not functioning properly, which damages the sleeves of fatty tissue protecting nerve cells, resulting in seizures and hyperactivity.
Due to renewed US economic sanctions imposed after US President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal, treatment was not possible, because of shortages of medicine and medical equipment in Iran.
In the Euronews interview, an Iranian doctor talked about the shortages of medicine and equipment, which are spared from sanctions. Nonetheless, many global companies, fearing potential US reprisal, have suspended business in the country.
The boy's health has been deteriorating quickly. He has become nearly blind and deaf, can no longer walk and has to be fed a liquid diet.
The family can do nothing but give the boy all their love. It was heartbreaking to watch the boy's father, with tears in his eyes, describing his son's helpless situation.
Covering the 42nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva early last week, I did not hear any condemnation of economic sanctions as a serious human rights violation. But it is time to call them what they are.
The good news is that on Thursday, the council convened a biennial panel discussion on unilateral coercive measures and human rights, where officials and experts discussed the negative impact of such coercive measures on human rights.
United States leaders, past and present, like to tout the effects of their sanctions on countries such as Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Syria. They claim that economic sanctions deprive some governments of the money to develop nuclear weapons, pressure their leaders to change course and defend human rights, freedom and democracy.
I am not defending every policy of these governments. But the US and many other Western countries are indeed good at hijacking the moral high ground.
What is true is that none of these sanctioned countries has surrendered to Washington after decades living under maximum pressure. In the case of Cuba, the US economic embargo has been imposed for nearly 60 years and is now widely regarded as a debacle.
When US sanctions cause skyrocketing inflation and unemployment in Iran and other countries, it is ordinary people who are collectively punished by the US administration.
Iran's GDP grew 13.4 percent in 2016 after easing of sanctions as a result of the nuclear deal, but the World Bank forecast Iran's economy will contract 4.5 percent this year, largely as a result of renewed US sanctions.
The sanctions have impoverished people and denied them food, medicine and education.
The boy whom Borges discussed is just one of the heartbreaking stories resulting from US sanctions.
In May, Idriss Jazairy, a special rapporteur appointed by the Human Rights Council, expressed deep concern at unilateral coercive measures by the US on Cuba, Venezuela and Iran, saying the use of economic sanctions for political purposes violates human rights.
So when US officials, such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, say the US stands with the Iranian people, I doubt they dare look into the eyes of that boy's father.
Sanctions, though there are no bombs dropped or shots fired, constitute an act of war. And though it isn't a true shooting war, the damage done to innocent people is no different.
When the 74th session of the UN General Assembly opens in New York on Tuesday, there is no better time to look into the devastating effect on ordinary people caused by economic sanctions.
The author is chief of China Daily's EU Bureau in Brussels.