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News code: 29188
Published Date: Monday 13 April 2020 - 10:25:31
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Former UN official;

US coercive measures amount to "crimes against humanity"

US coercive measures amount to
IRAN  - A retired high-ranking United Nations official says the imposition of unilateral coercive measures as a "crime against humanity" within the meaning of article 7 of the Statute of Rome.

Alfred de Zayas is an American lawyer and retired high-ranking United Nations official. From 1 May 2012 to 30 April 2018 he served as the first UN Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order. In an extensive interview with HCHR, he says that as "Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order" identifies the imposition of unilateral coercive measures as a "crime against humanity" within the meaning of article 7 of the Statute of Rome.


Q. Iran is hit HARD by the Coronavirus, and despite many calls from the international community, the US refrains from easing the sanctions. Do you think this is a crime according to the international law?


AZ: The only sanctions that can be considered legal under international law are sanctions imposed by the Security Council under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Unilateral coercive measures have been condemned by the United Nations in countless UN General Assembly resolutions.


For instance, there are 27 GA resolutions demanding the lifting of the financial blockade and embargo against Cuba; (look here and here)-- to no avail, because the United States government considers itself above international law and does not even respect judgments of the International Court of Justice against it (cases Nicaragua v. United States, Germany v. United States (La Grand case), Mexico v. United States (Avena et al. cases). Alas, the mainstream media does not enlighten the public about the systematic violation of international law by the United States, and the general feeling in the American public, even among academics, is that the Unites States is a leader in the promotion of a rules-based international order and in the protection of human rights -- Never underestimate the suggestive power of the media.

the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has condemned unilateral coercive measures on numerous occasions, starting with its general Comment Nr. 8, adopted in 1997. https://www.refworld.org/docid/47a7079e0.htmlthe UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights condemned unilateral coercive measures in its 2000 report, drafted by Professor Marc Bossuyt, President of the Belgian Constitutional Court. Doc. E/CN.4/Sub.2/2000/. And you can see also my statement at the Human Rights Council biennial debate on international coercive measures, 2017


the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, condemned unilateral coercive measures in her thematic report in 2012 Doc. A/HRC/19/33.


On 24 March the new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, called for the "easing" of sanctions,
the UN Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver, called for the lifting of sanctions on 31 March 2020 and
on 6 April the new UN rapporteur on the adverse impact of unilateral coercive measures, Alena Douha, also demanded the lifting of sanctions.

 

Q: Many international organizations have confirmed that people are dying because of sanctions, and they cut Iranian's access to medical equipment which is highly vital for treating covid-19. Does it amount to Crime against humanity and genocide?


AZ: The US sanctions certainly constitute a "crime against humanity" for purposes of article 7 of the Statute of Rome. The International Criminal Court is already seised of a case presented by the Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, contending that the US sanctions have already caused tens of thousands of deaths in Venezuela. The submission is based partly on the study of Professors Jeffrey Sachs and Mark Weisbrot, published in 2019 and estimating that in the year 2018 alone some 40,000 Venezuelans lost their lives as a result of the sanctions and financial blockade.


the Venezuelan submission to the ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda also relies on my 2018 report to the Human Rights Council, paragraphs 34-39 A/HRC/39/43/Add.1


The sanctions regime against Iran, in the specific circumstances of the Covid pandemic and the deliberate aggravation of the health situation, scarcity of medicines and medical equipment, can also fall within the meaning of genocide. Article 2 of the Convention lists the kind of prohibited actions

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;


A complaint should be submitted to the International Court of Justice, which has jurisdiction pursuant to article 9 of the Genocide Convention IX. Disputes between the Contracting Parties relating to the interpretation, application or fulfilment of the present Convention, including those relating to the responsibility of a State for genocide or for any of the other acts enumerated in article III, shall be submitted to the International Court of Justice at the request of any of the parties to the dispute.

A complaint should also be forwarded to the Secretary General's Special Advisor on the prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng.

Q. Why UN and other international bodies do almost nothing to prevent the crimes of US? Do you agree that the actions of UN is politically oriented?


AZ: The United Nations is an organization of States. It has always been a very political body and does not live up to the promise of the UN Charter. The Security Council, the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, even the Human Rights Council are thoroughly politicized, and very little happens without threats and arm-twisting.

On 9 April, the Secretary-General spoke to a session of the Security Council specifically on a strategy to combat Covid-19. Besides platitudes about solidarity and cooperation, there was no concrete proposal e.g. to immediately lift sanctions as demanded by UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food Hilal Elver and UN Special Rapporteur on sanctions, Alena Douha. In the entire speech of the Secretary General the words "sanctions", "crime against humanity", "genocide" do not appear even once.

Why is this? The United Nations depends on the financial contribution of its members. the United States systematically uses blackmail in threatening to cut funding -- or actually cutting funding. This has occurred in the past with regard to the UN general budget, the budgets of UNESCO and UNRWA. Now the World Health Organisation is being threatened with having its US funding cut.


This is unethical, petulant, criminal behaviour is not new. Prior presidents including George W. Bush and Obama have threatened and actually cut UN funding.


But the European Union, Canada, Australia, Japan etc. tolerate this kind of "Wild West" behavior. It is, of course, contrary to the letter and spirit of the UN Charter, but the US is a permanent member of the Security Council and has the veto power (article 27, paragraph 3, of the Charter), which essentially grants it impunity for its actions.

I propose that the UN General Assembly urgently adopt a resolution pursuant to article 96 of the UN Charter, elevating 4 legal questions to the International Court of Justice and requesting an advisory opinion thereon:

1. what sanctions can be considered legal in international law?

2. what principles of international law and human rights norms are violated by international coercive measures?

3. what is the civil and penal responsibility of States that impose or implement unilateral coercive measures?

4. what is the level of reparation that States must pay to compensate the victims of illegal sanctions?

Q. Can US sanctions, especially in the areas of medicine, food, humanitarian aid and civil aviation, violate the primary rules of general international law (Jus Cogens)? If so, what are the obligations of other countries, including European countries? Have they violated their obligations to the US violation of Jus Cogens?

AZ: The concept of obligations erga omnes -- that is the Responsibility of States vis a vis the entire international community -- applied, even before the International Court of Justice, issued its landmark judgment in the Barcelona Traction case. (Also see the article of Professor Karl Zemanek).


All States parties to the UN Charter and to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights have erga omnes obligations -- among them to condemn the breach of the UN Charter, the breach of the Charter-based principle of multilateralism and the ABSOLUTE PROHIBITION to recognize the situation created after a violation. That is, not only must the international community reject unilateral coercive measures. They must NOT become party to them. If they do, they themselves become civilly and criminally liable.

There are principles of Jus Cogens violated by the murderous US unilateral coercive measures. First of all, a violation of Article 2, paragraph 4, of the UN Charter, which prohibits the threat of and the use of force. There is no doubt that the imposition of sanctions constitutes "use of force"

The UN Charter stipulates " All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations".

Such use of force is clearly inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations as laid out in article 1, in particular
The Purposes of the United Nations are:

1. To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace;

2. To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace;

3. To achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion;

Another principle of Jus Cogens is the right of self-determination of peoples, also stipulated in article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

To impose unilateral coercive measures to achieve "regime change" clearly violates the right of self-determination of peoples and the "principle of equal rights".

But most importantly, unilateral coercive measures violate the "general principles of law" referred to in article 38 of the statute of the International Court of Justice -- among the general principles of law is the duty of applying treaties -- including the UN Charter -- "in good faith", the prohibition of acts that are contra bonos mores, the principle of estoppel (ex injuria non oritur jus), the primacy of the right to life, and the ABSOLUTE PROHIBITION OF TORTURE.

Several United Nations Special Rapporteurs have already identified the imposition of conditions of life leading to great suffering and death as a form of Torture. There is also relevant jurisprudence of the United Nations Committee against Torture.

I myself as Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order identified the imposition of unilateral coercive measures as a "crime against humanity" within the meaning of article 7 of the Statute of Rome.

News Code: 29188
Published Date: Monday 13 April 2020 - 10:25:31
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