Alena Douhan, the UN Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral sanctions. FILE PHOTO

Alena Douhan, the UN Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral sanctions.

Iran To Exploit Visit Of A UN Rapporteur On 'Unilateral Sanctions'


By allowing a UN Special Rapporteur on unilateral sanctions to visit the country, Iran seeks to deflect attention from its human rights violations, critics say.

Alena Douhan, the UN Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, will arrive in Iran Saturday. Douhan, a professor of international law at the Belarussian State University is an expert in international law, sanctions, and human rights law.

During her eleven-day visit, Douhan will hold meetings with various Iranian officials as well as officials of various UN agencies in Tehran, non-governmental organizations, representatives of business and civil society organizations, and academics.

"We denounce the government's instrumentalization of the system of UN human rights monitors in a cynical attempt to deflect attention from its well-documented record of human rights violations," eleven human rights organizations said in a joint statement Friday in reference to the visit.

The signatories of the statement including Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran, All Human Rights for All in Iran, and Article 19, criticized the UN for sending Douhan to Iran although in the past seventeen years the Islamic Republic has denied access to all UN special rapporteurs for human rights.

Iran has not allowed visits to any of the fourteen UN human rights experts who have made requests to monitor the situation of human rights in Iran, including to the special rapporteurs appointed by the UN Human Rights Council.

"The mandate on unilateral coercive measures is unique in that it calls on the mandate-holder to assess primarily – if not exclusively – the responsibility of sanction imposing states for rights violations in the jurisdiction of sanctioned states," the rights organizations' statement said, adding that Iranian authorities are exploiting the visit by the only expert whose mandate is to look at external actors' liability, to blunt scrutiny of their own record of non-cooperation with the UN human rights system.

"By inviting the UN Special Rapporteur, Iran’s ruling clerics, which have been condemned 68 times by the United Nations for brutal and systematic human rights abuses, seek to undermine international sanctions and dodge blame for their incompetency and shortcomings," a commentary in Iran Wire website April 25 said about Iran's alleged agenda.

The role of this rapporteur was created at the UN Human Rights Council by the adoption of a resolution proposed by Iran on behalf of Non-Aligned Movement in 2014.

The resolution stresses that unilateral sanctions, meaning those not approved by the UN Security Council, are contrary to international laws and highlights that on long-term, these measures may result in social problems and raise humanitarian concerns in the targeted states.

Douhan has a track-record of only condemning sanctions imposed on non-democratic countries while virtually remaining silent on violations by countries like Iran, Syria and her native Belarus. The argument that only Security Council sanctions are legal ignore the fact that countries such as Russia and China can easily veto any resolution meant to punish an authoritarian government for massive rights violations.

Since her appointment in March 2020, Douhan has served as the UN rapporteur on US unilateral sanctions against Venezuela (August 2020) and Saudi Arabia's sanctions against Qatar (November 2020). In December 2020, Douhan said US sanctions against Syria's government may inhibit rebuilding of Syria’s civilian infrastructure destroyed by the conflict, and could “violate the human rights of the Syrian people.”

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