Iranian Thalassemia Patients Suffer Due to Illegal US Sanctions: UN Experts

Iranian Thalassemia Patients Suffer Due to Illegal US Sanctions: UN Experts

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – The US sanctions against Iran and their enforcement in third countries violate international law, according to the UN Human Rights Council, which cites the findings of two special rapporteurs on Iranians suffering from thalassemia.

“The legality of the US unilateral sanctions against Iran is doubtful under international law, and so is the legality of their extraterritorial enforcement,” Alena Douhan and Obiora Okafor said in a statement. “Still companies outside the US feel obliged to comply to avoid facing legal or business repercussions.”

Douhan is the special rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, while Okafor is an independent expert on human rights and international solidarity. They looked into the ways the US embargo – imposed unilaterally in 2018 after Washington reneged on the 2015 nuclear deal – has affected Iranians suffering from thalassemia, a hereditary blood disorder.

Iran has a “particularly high number” of patients with thalassemia, who require specialized medication during blood transfusions. They are manufactured by the Swiss company Novartis, with components sourced from the French company Roquette Freres, but were “denied to Iran” due to “fear in medical, delivery and insurance business sectors,” the experts said.

“The humanitarian exemptions for medical goods in US sanctions regulations are complex and unclear,” Douhan and Okafor said, while Washington imposes high fines on companies selling medication to Iran, which leads to their “over-compliance.”

Even when a delivery is authorized, “producers, shippers, insurers, or banks” are reluctant to do business with Iran fearing “aggressive US sanctions enforcement and penalties,” they noted. This has led to “fear, pain and premature death” among thalassemia patients.

Okafor and Douhan called on the US government to remove any obstacles to financial transactions for medical purposes, effectively implement humanitarian exemptions, and not impose secondary sanctions on medical exports to Iran, while urging other UN members to abide by their human rights obligations.

Thalassemia is a genetic blood disorder that requires regular blood transfusions and medication to manage symptoms. Iran has a high prevalence of the disease, and approximately 25,000 people are born with thalassemia each year.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the OHCHR highlighted that the sanctions have hindered the import of necessary medical equipment and supplies, including blood transfusion devices and medication, leading to serious health risks for thalassemia patients. The OHCHR called on the countries imposing the sanctions to consider the humanitarian consequences of their actions and to exempt medical equipment and supplies from the measures.

The OHCHR also urged the international community to provide support to Iran in addressing the impact of the sanctions on the health of its population, including thalassemia patients.

In 2015, the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany reached an agreement with Iran known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in which Tehran agreed to limit its nuclear energy research in exchange for respite from UN sanctions. The United States unilaterally exited the JCPOA in 2018, applying its own sanctions and intent on punishing anyone, anywhere who failed to abide by them.

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