LETTERS: INDIA has recently imposed restrictions against the purchase of Malaysia’s palm oil in response to our prime minister’s comment about Kashmir.
Some time before, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad also pointed to the illegal and unlawful sanctions the United States had imposed on nations that have economic relations with Iran.
Dr Mahathir quite rightly pointed out that differences of any kind should and must not lead to economic sanctions being imposed by one nation against another equally sovereign nation just because of ideological disagreements.
Yet the US under the Trump administration has shown callous disregard for international norms by withdrawing from the landmark peace deal agreed between the former Obama administration and Iran as well as other international powers on the restriction of development of nuclear weapons.
Is it any wonder then that tensions recently came to a head with the US drone killing of the commander of the Quds forces of Iran, Qasem Soleimani, and Iran’s subsequent retaliation on US military bases in Iraq?
Fundamental to basic as well as universal human rights are economic rights.
Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) 1948 states that everyone has the right to own property and no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.
Article 22 follows this with the right for all to realise their economic rights while Article 23 of the same affirms the right of all to work for just and favourable remuneration.
Lastly, Article 25(1) of the UDHR states that everyone has a right to a standard of living adequate for the wellbeing of themselves and their families.
These rights are amplified and expanded upon in various forms via the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the Asean Human Rights Declaration 2012 and the various conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). However, it is not just the UDHR which recognises economic rights.
Article 15 of the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam 1990 equally affirms the right of all to own property, while Article 14 enshrines the right to earn a legitimate living. Article 13 protects the right of all to work for fair wages without delay.
Crucially, Article 3(a) of the same states that in the case of armed conflict, it is not permissible to kill non-belligerents such as old men, women and children, and all shall have the right to medical treatment and all prisoners of war shall have the right to be fed, sheltered and clothed.
This is echoed in the Geneva Convention which both the US and Iran are parties to. Unilateral coercive measures is the term given to actions, including economic sanctions, taken by militarily powerful international state actors against the weaker ones, such as the case with India against Kashmir, the US against Iran and Israel against Palestine.
They are abhorred by all right thinking members of the international community for being contrary to international law, including international humanitarian law, the UN Charter and the norms and principles governing conduct between equal and sovereign states.
Economic sanctions have far-reaching implications for the economic rights of the general population of targeted states, disproportionately affecting the poor and the most vulnerable.
Further, long-term unilateral coercive measures may result in social problems and raise humanitarian concerns in the states targeted.
Nowhere is this truer than in Iran, where the most severe impact these sanctions have is upon the ordinary population.
In the Palestinian territories, the situation is worse with the whole of the Gaza strip being described as the world’s largest prison.
Within Kashmir, shops continue to close due to fear of reprisals and violence caused by the Indian authorities, who have been blamed for instigating fear throughout the region.
It is because of these unilateral coercive measures that economic rights, which are integral to human rights, are being suppressed.
The consequence of this is more poverty, more inequality as well as more injustice visited upon ordinary folk who have nothing to do with the geopolitical games being played by the world powers.
To this end, Malaysia must revive its leading role in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), on whose behalf Venezuela sponsored UNHRC RES/37/21 on unilateral coercive measures, so that such measures can be brought to an end once and for all.
AZRIL MOHD AMIN,
Chief Executive Centre for Human Rights Research & Advocacy
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Straits Times