UN Human Rights Council Condemns ‘Illegal’ Sanctions

Ana Gabriela Salazar, research coordinator at SURES, told Venezuelanalysis that sanctions “clearly contravene the principles of political independence and non-intervention.”

The UN Human Rights Council convenes in Geneva for its 52nd session.

Mexico City, Mexico, April 4, 2023 (venezuelanalysis.com) – The United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council adopted a resolution condemning the use of unilateral coercive measures as means to exert political and economic pressure, particularly on least developed and developing countries.

The resolution was presented by Azerbaijan on behalf of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries during the body’s 52nd session in Geneva and contains 35 points that criticize the use of unilateral coercive measures, also known as sanctions, and their negative impact on the enjoyment of human rights.

The text of the resolution explicitly calls on all States to “stop adopting, maintaining, implementing or complying with unilateral coercive measures not in accordance with international law, international humanitarian law, [and] the Charter of the United Nations.”

The document further calls for “removal” of unilateral coercive measures and condemns their application and enforcement as “tools of pressure” by “certain powers” as means of limiting the sovereignty of states to determine their political, economic and social systems, particularly against least developed and developing countries.

The language reflects the increased use of sanctions by the United States and its allies as means of coercion against states that do not align with Washington’s interests. The proliferation of unilateral sanctions has drawn scrutiny from human rights experts, highlighting their disproportionate impact on women, children and other vulnerable groups.

Ana Gabriela Salazar, research coordinator at Venezuelan human rights organization SURES, told Venezuelanalysis that the vote at Human Rights Council exposes the “hypocrisy” of countries like the US, which claim to champion human rights in the world, and reveals the “political instrumentalization of human rights” at the service of US imperialism.

“On the one hand, these countries claim to be defenders and promoters of human rights at a global level and, in contrast, they support the imposition of these illegal measures against the peoples of the world,” said Salazar.

Since 2017, the US and its allies have imposed a wide-reaching sanctions regime on Venezuela, first implemented by former US President Donald Trump and largely kept in place by his successor Joe Biden. Following financial sanctions against PDVSA in 2017, the US Treasury Department imposed an oil embargo in 2019, effectively blocking the country’s main source of income, which has severely curtailed the country’s economic development. Analysts estimate losses to be as high as US $30 billion per year.

Salazar backs the assertion that unilateral coercive measures are designed to obtain the “subordination” of one state to the dictates of another, which she says “clearly contravenes the principles of political independence and non-intervention in matters that are essentially within the internal jurisdiction of states.”

The Venezuelan government has long demanded the US lift sanctions that it has deemed illegal, which Washington and its allies have steadfastly refused. US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols recently stated that Washington would only lift sanctions imposed on Venezuela if there is “progress” in the government-opposition negotiations.

Washington and Caracas appear to be at a stalemate, with Nicolás Maduro government conditioning talks with the hardline opposition on the release of US $3 billion in Venezuelan funds abroad, illegally seized by Washington and allies since 2019. The fund is part of the agreement signed by both the government and the opposition in México City.

The US has also ignored various calls from voices inside the UN, including from High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk, to lift its Venezuela sanctions.

Salazar told Venezuelanalysis that SURES hopes Monday’s vote will “help make visible the impacts on peoples’ fundamental human rights, as well as the generalized use of unilateral coercive measures and related phenomena such as secondary sanctions and overcompliance.”

Overcompliance refers to instances whereby firms refuse to do business with a sanctioned country due to fear of running afoul of strict US sanctions despite not necessarily violating unilateral coercive measures.

SURES has been working to defend human rights through its on-the-ground efforts inside Venezuela and has previously criticized the work of UN groups that do not have a presence inside the country. In September the organization called into question a report by the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, charging that the high-profile accusations of human rights violations lacked objectivity and impartiality.

The vote at the Human Rights Council largely broke along geopolitical lines, leading former Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Guillame Long to tweet, “Global North vs. Global South” in response to the result of the vote.

Salazar argued that the vote showcased a tendency to use the UN system for political ends with “increasing frequency”, as well as the “politicization of particular agendas within the Human Rights Council.”

She added that she hoped that Monday’s resolution will also help Venezuela make its case in international forums that the imposition of sanctions on the country must be taken into consideration in the UN’s Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review. During Venezuela’s last review, Vice-President Delcy Rodríguez likewise called on UN Member States to abstain from using the human rights system for political ends.

Edited by Ricardo Vaz in Caracas.