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Human Rights Watch Urges US to Ease Sanctions on Iran Amidst Growing Pandemic

Iranian women, members of the paramilitary organization Basij, make face masks and other protective items at a mosque in Tehran amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, April 5, 2020.

Human Rights Watch released a report early Monday urging the United States to ease sanctions on Iran because of the negative impact they are having on the country’s ability to control and treat COVID-19.

“The U.S. should take immediate action to ease U.S. sanctions and expand licensing of sanctions-exempt items to ensure Iran’s access to essential humanitarian resources during the pandemic,” HRW said in a report published on its website.

In 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump imposed sweeping sanctions on Tehran after withdrawing unilaterally from the 2015 nuclear deal. Human rights groups and others say the restrictions have slowed efforts to fight the coronavirus that had infected more than 60,000 and caused more than 3,700 deaths.

The report said that U.S. restrictions on financing, combined with the depreciation of the Iranian currency rial, have limited Iranian companies and hospitals from importing essential medicines and medical equipment needed for critical medical care.

According to international law, a country or a bloc of nations enforcing economic sanctions should consider the impact on the affected population, especially regarding their access to goods essential to life, including medicines and food.

“It’s bad enough that Iranians are saddled with a brutal, self-serving government …" said Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth. “But it is wrong and callous for the Trump administration to compound Iranians’ misery by depriving them of access to the critical medical resources they urgently need.”