On March 25, the representatives of Russia, China, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela sent a letter to the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, urging him to call for the lifting of unilateral coercive measures, or economic sanctions, imposed on these countries by the United States amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the letter, the diplomats described the novel coronavirus as “a common enemy” and said that these coercive measures are complicating the fight against the coronavirus for all sanctions-hit states.
“We respectfully urge you to request the complete and immediate lifting of such illegal, coercive and arbitrary measures of economic pressure – in line with the longstanding and principled position of the United Nations to reject unilateral coercive measures – in order to ensure the full, effective and efficient response of all members of the international community to the coronavirus, and to also reject the politicization of such a pandemic,” read the letter.
Earlier this week, on March 24, Guterres sent a letter to the Group of 20 (G20) economic powers, calling for rolling back international sanctions around the world to battle the pandemic and contain its spread. “I’m encouraging the waiving of sanctions imposed on countries to ensure access to food, essential health supplies, and COVID-19 medical support. This is the time for solidarity not exclusion,” wrote Guterres.
The same day, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, also called for easing of sanctions. “In a context of global pandemic, impeding medical efforts in one country heightens the risk for all of us. At this crucial time, both for global public health reasons, and to support the rights and lives of millions of people in these countries, sectoral sanctions should be eased or suspended,” said Bachelet in a statement.
The statement also highlighted that the human rights reports have indicated that sanctions are impeding the access to “essential medicines and medical equipment, such as respirators and protective equipment for health-care workers.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic on March 11. More than 590,000 people have been infected with the coronavirus worldwide and over 26,900 have died.