Human Rights Watch

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Iran: Sanctions Threatening Health

US Should Ensure Effective Humanitarian Exemptions

Tuesday 29 October 2019


(Washington, DC, October 29, 2019) – 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, Human Right Watch said in a report released today. The administration in Washington should immediately clarify at the highest level that United States and other banks and companies face no legal or financial risks in connection with exports of medicines or other exempted humanitarian goods to Iran.


The 42-page report, “‘Maximum Pressure’: US Economic Sanctions Harm Iranians’ Right to Health,” documents how broad restrictions on financial transactions, coupled with aggressive rhetoric from US officials, have drastically constrained the ability of Iranian entities to finance humanitarian imports, including vital medicines and medical equipment. While the US government has built exemptions for humanitarian imports into its sanctions regime, Human Rights Watch found that in practice these exemptions have failed to offset the strong reluctance of US and European companies and banks to risk incurring sanctions and legal action by exporting or financing exempted humanitarian goods. The result has been to deny Iranians access to essential medicines and to impair their right to health. Under international law, the US should monitor the impact of its sanctions on Iranians' rights and address any violations sanctions cause.

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