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HRW Criticizes US Sanctions, Saying Iranians Deprived Of Needed Medical Care

File photo - People in a pharmacy in Tehran, Iran.

After more than a year of U.S. sanctions on Iran’s banking relations with the rest of the world, Human Rights Watch has criticized Washington’s broad range of restrictions as a serious impediment for ordinary Iranians to have access to medicines and health care.

“The Trump administration’s broad sanctions on Iran have drastically constrained the ability of the country to finance humanitarian imports, including medicines, causing serious hardships for ordinary Iranians and threatening their right to health”, HRW said in a news release October 29 announcing its 47-page report.

HRW acknowledges that the United States has exempted humanitarian imports by Iran but says that the banking restrictions “coupled with aggressive rhetoric” from U.S. officials, “have drastically constrained the ability of Iranian entities to finance humanitarian imports.”

Iran’s anti-U.S., anti-West and Anti-Israel rhetoric has also contributed to persistent tensions in the past four decades and lack of mutual trust.

Iran has been complaining about the total impact of U.S. sanctions on securing medicines and humanitarian supplies, but the U.S. always insists these are exempt from sanctions.

The three leading European states, the United Kingdom, France and Germany decided to offer Iran a special trading vehicle after the U.S. pulled out of the 2015 nuclear agreement and reimposed sanctions. The mechanism called Instex, meant primarily to help humanitarian trade, was finally established in January 2019, but its actual operation would depend on banks and companies willing to do business with Iran under U.S. sanctions.

Also, Iran has failed to ratify international conventions against money laundering and financing of terrorism, demanded by the Financial Action Task Action (FATF), a watchdog tasked to ensure that international banking is not abused for these purposes. Iran’s parliament had approved legislation to this effect, but ratifying bodies controlled by the country’s conservatives have refused to endorse the laws. Without complying with FATF demands, Iran’s banking relations with the world remains restricted.

Human Rights watch focusing on U.S. sanctions says, “Under international law, the US should monitor the impact of its sanctions on Iranians’ rights and address any violations sanctions cause.”

HRW says its report is based on a broad range of interviews it has conducted both with Iranian and other medical and policy experts in an eleven-month period.

HRW also cites U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who in February 2019 in remarks to CBS seemed to know that sanctions are causing pain for ordinary Iranians. “Things are much worse for the Iranian people [with the US sanctions], and we are convinced that will lead the Iranian people to rise up and change the behavior of the regime,” Pompeo said.

Last week, the United States announced new measures regarding humanitarian trade to Iran, asking other governments to submit detailed information, vowing that the “new mechanism” would help the Iranian people by facilitating “legitimate” humanitarian trade.

However HRW says, this “is a rare implicit acknowledgement that broad US sanctions on Iran have restricted the flow of humanitarian goods into the country”.