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Independent UN rights expert calls for unilateral sanctions to be dropped against Venezuela

“The devastating effect of sanctions imposed is multiplied by extra-territoriality and over-compliance adversely affecting public and private sectors, Venezuela citizens, non-governmental organizations, third country national and companies”, said Alena Douhan, Special Rapporteur on unilateral coercive measures and human rights. 

Imposed by the United States, European Union as well as other countries, the sanctions have sparked economic, humanitarian and development crises, devastating the entire population, especially those living in extreme poverty, women, medical workers, individuals with life-threatening diseases and indigenous peoples. 

Exemptions are no answer 

First imposed against Venezuela in 2005, sanctions have been severely strengthened since 2015, with the harshest levied by the United States. 

Ms. Douhan stressed that unilateral measures are only legal if they are authorized by the Security Council, used as countermeasures, or do not breach any obligation of States and do not violate fundamental human rights. 

She also pointed out that “humanitarian exemptions are lengthy, costly, ineffective and inefficient”. 

Lack of electricity, water, fuel, food and medicine along with the departure of qualified workers – many of whom have left the country for better economic opportunities – are having “enormous impact over all categories of human rights, including the rights to life, to food, to health and to development”, the UN expert highlighted. 

Complex situation 

Citing “the complexity of the situation”, during her visit the independent expert sought to meet “the widest range of people” to listen to their experience and insights, from government officials to opposition leaders and non-governmental organizations to victims of human rights violations “as well as ordinary people”, Ms. Douhan said.  

She called on the sanction-imposing countries to observe the principles and norms of international law and reminded them that humanitarian concerns should always be taken into account with due respect to mutual respect, solidarity, cooperation and multilateralism.  

The human rights expert plans to issue a full report on her mission in September 2021.  

Special Rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not they paid for their work.

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