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High time to assess and mitigate human rights impact of unilateral sanctions – New UN expert

GENEVA (17 September 2015) – United Nations expert on human rights and international sanctions Idriss Jazairy today drew attention to a large increase in unilateral coercive measures (UCMs) imposed since the 1990s – departing from clearly legal multilateral sanctions taken by the UN Security Council- and warned about their possible negative impact on the human rights of the civilian population targeted.

“It is high time for the UN and the international community to assess and mitigate the adverse effects of unilateral sanctions,” said the first independent expert tasked by the UN Human Rights Council with monitoring, reporting and advising on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights worldwide.

During the presentation of his first report to the Council, Mr. Jazairy stressed that “while analysing motivations of UCMs is a political exercise, drawing attention to the possible adverse human rights impact of UCMs and to ways of mitigating such impact and of seeking redress for victims is not.”

“One full third of humanity lives in countries affected by sanctions”, he underlined.

“37 sanction targets for the European Union, 32 for the United States, over 20 for Canada and Australia, and the list goes on. Several overlapping the 16 targets of sanctions currently applied by the Security Council, and current indicators do not point to a reversal of this trend,” he noted.

The Special Rapporteur acknowledged that qualitative improvements in UCMs have occurred in response to human rights concerns from the international community, and in parallel to progress in the sanctions practice of the Security Council.

However, he questioned the claim that the pain caused by UCMs is justified by the improvement of the human rights situation alleged to result in the targeted country. “It remains to be seen whether human rights lend themselves to this kind of calculus,” he said, highlighting the fact that a very wide range of human rights might be affected by coercive measures.

Addressing the evolution of the practice of sanctions, he welcomed the positive steps taken by some countries which have been moving away from the imposition of comprehensive UCMs and towards sector-based measures mirroring the improvements made at Security Council level.

“In complex crisis situations, it becomes difficult to draw a distinction between comprehensive coercive measures and an accumulation of so-called targeted measures,” the expert added.

He further emphasized as a positive evolution the introduction of legal rules designed to enhance due process when implementing UCMs and to gauge their impact on human rights. However, he deplored the superimposition of targeted UCMs over and above Security Council sanctions which distort the purpose of the latter.

“There is need in the UN system, for a clearing house or public register of on-going UCMs”, he said. “There is a need for transparency from all countries to elaborate and sustain a global and coherent record of UCMs.”

In order to better evaluate adverse human rights impacts of UCMs on targeted countries, Mr. Jazairy called for the cooperation of the international community and all interested stakeholders to contribute to the elaboration of draft guidelines to prevent, minimize and redress the adverse impact of UCMs on human rights, one of the core tasks of this mandate. This exercise would be entered into pragmatically and without prejudice to the legal status of the UCMs under consideration.

“There is a need for an inter-agency task-force with OHCHR, UNDP, UNICEF and the World Bank in particular to elaborate appropriate assessment parameters in order to determine objectively the extent of the adverse impact of UCMs on human rights he noted.

The expert further noted that he would review existing independent mechanisms set up to assess the adverse impacts of UCMs and available fora or mechanisms for redress or reparations in favour of aggrieved parties. “I will seek to identify best practices and next practices, having in view the necessity to promote the accountability and to distinguish correlation from causality in impact assessment,” he said.

“This is a particularly auspicious time to turn what many considered a vicious circle into a truly virtuous one,” the Special Rapporteur underscored, recalling recent significant developments in the international arena, where the removal of long-standing UCMs is in the making.

(*) Check the Independent Expert’s report (A/HRC/30/45): http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session30/Pages/ListReports.aspx

Mr. Idriss Jazairy was appointed by the Human Rights Council as the first Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights. He took office on 1 May 2015. Mr. Jazairy has extensive experience in the fields of international relations and human rights with the Algerian Foreign Ministry, the UN human rights system and international NGOs. He holds a M.A.(Oxford) in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, and an M.P.A. (Harvard). He also graduated from the Ecole nationale d’Administration (France). Mr. Jazairy is the author of books and of a large number of articles in the international press on development, human rights and current affairs. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/UCM/Pages/SRCoerciveMeasures.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

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