April 3, 2020 – Over 200 lawyers and legal organizations called on the United States to drop its sanctions against Venezuela and Iran as the countries race to fight COVID-19 in an open letter released Friday. The global pandemic has drawn attention to the devastating effects of U.S. sanctions on these countries, as well as the ongoing blockade of Cuba, and how these illegitimate unilateral coercive measures undermine public health and global peace and security.
The open letter, which addresses U.S. President Donald Trump, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, was initiated by the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), Lawyers Rights Watch Canada(LRWC), the American Association of Jurists (AAJ) and the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL). It was adopted by lawyers, law students and legal workers across the U.S. and internationally, endorsed by the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Society of American Law Teachers, the Latin American Association of Labor Lawyers (ALAL) and the Brazilian Association of Labor Lawyers, among others.
The letter notes:
“Your administration’s disapproval of the government of a foreign state provides no legal justification for policies and actions intended to deprive residents of the targeted state of necessaries as a means of forcing a change to a regime more to the liking of the United States. The US unilateral coercive measures (UCMs) against Iran and Venezuela, with their new secondary pressures against third countries, violate the UN and OAS Charters – both of which are ‘treaties’ incorporated into US domestic law through Article 6 of the US Constitution.”
“Because it is the revenues from the resources of Iran and Venezuela that fund the social services, food and medicine and medical devices needed by their people, the US UCMs also violate States’ obligation under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to respect and protect the rights of every person to: ‘life’ (Art. 3) and a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of individuals and their families, ‘including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services…'(Art. 25).”
The United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, recently urged that sanctions be suspended amid COVID-19, noting that “impeding medical efforts in one country heightens the risk for all of us.”
The letter urges immediate cancellation of the unilateral coercive measures against Iran and Venezuela, noting that even before the global COVID-19 pandemic, these U.S. sanctions were recognized by the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the issue as a violation of internationally recognized human rights.