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Unilateral sanctions against Russia hurt most vulnerable groups with limited impact on international businesses, UN expert finds

Russia / Sanctions

28 April 2017

MOSCOW / GENEVA (28 April 2017) – International unilateral sanctions against the Russian Federation risk adversely affecting the most vulnerable people in the country, while having only a limited impact on businesses, United Nations human rights expert Idriss Jazairy has found. 

“The measures are intended to serve as a deterrent to Russia but run the risk of being only a deterrent to the international business community, while adversely affecting only those vulnerable groups which have nothing to do with the crisis,” said Mr. Jazairy, the Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral sanctions.

“Once again unilateral sanctions are being proved ineffective in achieving their stated aim and are harming the human rights of innocent people,” he told a press conference in Moscow at the end of a five-day mission to assess the impact of the sanctions imposed on Russia over the Ukraine crises.

“People in Crimea* are suffering the most from this crisis. They should not be made to pay collectively for what is a complex political situation over which they have no control, and nor can their suffering serve as an argument to resolve political differences,” emphasized Mr Jazairy. He added that he was ready to visit and review further, if requested and subject to a previous agreement to this effect with parties concerned, the specific situation of human rights in Crimea .

The sanctions, or unilateral coercive measures, were imposed by more than 30 countries in 2014, and to date have been further strengthened.

The measures include travel restrictions, the freezing of funds and economic resources of individuals, bans on investment and on the import and export of certain goods and technology, as well as limitations on financial transactions.

Russia responded with similar bans against a number of countries, including halting food imports from the European Union, United States, Norway and Australia. But Mr. Jazairy says the move is costing both Russia and the countries that have been targeted by Moscow.

The Special Rapporteur says the action against Russia came at the same time as a substantial fall in oil prices and it was therefore difficult to determine the exact impact of the sanctions alone. But he had seen evidence that Russia had adjusted successfully, with the population preparing to “rally round” by accepting the inconveniences caused.

It was also clear, Mr. Jazairy said, that globalization meant it was impossible to disentangle the links between international corporations. The nature of globalization meant there were losses for those who had imposed the sanctions as well as for Russia. He pointed to previous reports to the Human Rights Council  from him in which some of the other issues had already been addressed.

Mr. Jazairy said Russia had managed to restructure its economy in a way that “cushioned” or stopped the population from being directly hit by them. The UN expert said he had been told by officials that the sanctions had given the Government an impetus to invest in national development.  

The Special Rapporteur called for sanctions against elected officials to be lifted. He said: “Priority should be given to ensuring immunity from unilateral measures for people elected to a parliamentary assembly, whose actions have been sanctioned democratically by voters and who are working in line with their country’s constitution.” 

During his visit, from 24 to 28 April, Mr. Jazairy met representatives of the Government as well other officials and groups, including civil society organizations, the national human rights institution, and representatives of the business and diplomatic communities in Moscow.

The Special Rapporteur will present a comprehensive report of his findings and recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2017.

(*) References to Crimea should be read in accordance with General Assembly resolution 68/262 (27 March 2014) on “Territorial integrity of Ukraine”, in which the General Assembly affirmed its commitment “to the sovereignty, political independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders”. Such decision has been confirmed in resolution 71/205 (19 December 2016) on the “Situation of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol (Ukraine)”. 

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 in 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.

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.

UN Human Rights, country page: Russian Federation

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