U.S. sanctions do not promote human rights, they violate them

Scout Hutchinson, Columnist

For many, United States sanctions are falsely considered to be forms of nonviolent diplomacy used in the name of protecting human rights.

They are posited and instituted as purely economic solutions and “diplomatic support” instead of the use of violent military intervention, making them increasingly popular to the public and politicians on both sides of the aisle. 

Economic sanctions, however, have been ultimately shown to create extreme economic disparities and instability, directly contributing to inhumane living conditions and civilian deaths. Making sanctions serves as the United States’ best false advertisement for the purpose of continuing our immense foreign control and imperial status within the international community. 

As an article in Al-Jazeera states, “The goal of US sanctions — in Iran, in Venezuela and beyond — is precisely to destroy the lives of ordinary people, in hopes they will rise up in favour of whatever regime change Washington is looking for.” So while sanctions may be advertised as non-violent diplomacy, they have increasingly been responsible for the death of innocent civilians and have been shown to create conditions that are in direct violation of international law and human rights, the very things that they are supposedly used to protect. 

The UN Human Rights Council  stated that economic sanctions “can have far-reaching implications for human rights,” particularly “on the right to life, the rights to health and medical care, the right to freedom from hunger, and the right to an adequate standard of living, food, education, work and housing.” These policies also do not achieve their goal of overthrowing regimes, according to Al-Jazeera, sanctions have never succeeded in “persuading a local population to rise up and overthrow their government in response.” 

Calls to lift economic sanctions have increasingly become more urgent during the COVID-19 pandemic, as it has exacerbated the already extreme economic disparities created by U.S. foreign intervention. 

Currently, U.S. sanctions in Syria, specifically under the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, have continued to increase inhumane living conditions during the pandemic, and have done nothing to actually protect Syrian citizens. Instead, according to Foreign Press, they have created electricity shortages, significantly plummeted the value of the Syrian pound, created immense food scarcity and made it increasingly impossible to have the needed medical supplies to combat COVID-19. 

Similarly in Iran, the financial sanctions are making it significantly harder for Iran to purchase medical supplies. While humanitarian items like medical supplies are supposed to be exempt, due to trade restrictions, fear from banks to work with Iran and the financial instability that comes from the sanctions, access to basic medical supplies and essential goods has become virtually impossible. 

Sanctions do not promote human rights, instead, they are designed to violate them. They create forms of instability that directly affect the living conditions of citizens, which shows just how little sanctions are meant to be used to promote human rights and how they are imposed only for the benefit of U.S. foreign policy. Not only are they massively affecting the way in which countries can respond to health concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic, they significantly decrease people’s quality of life, all under the guise of the protection of human rights. 

The United States must be held accountable for the violence and death that has been created through their “diplomatic support.” Sanctions violated human rights long before the pandemic and will continue to do so unless we address their true intentions and lift them in order to stop these inherently violent policies.