By Ramesh Jaura

BERLIN | NEW YORK (IDN) – The States party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) convene every five years to review the implementation of this nuclear disarmament regime in three sessions. In run-up to the 2020 NPT Review Conference, the first session of the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) will meet from May 2-12 in Vienna.

The Austrian capital, which serves as the associate headquarters of the UN, has come to play a historic role in the world body's efforts for a legal treaty aimed at ushering in a nuclear-weapons-free world. In December 2014, it was the venue of the third Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons – after Nayarit (Mexico) in February 2014 and Oslo in March 2013 – which paved the path to the 'Austrian Pledge', also known as the 'Humanitarian Pledge', to "stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons".

- Photo: 2021

UN Experts Call for Lifesaving Help for Venezuela Cancer Patients Hit by US Sanctions

By Jamshed Baruah

GENEVA (IDN) — Independent UN rights experts are concerned that Venezuelan cancer patients could die because they have been caught up in excessively strict application of U.S. sanctions aimed at Venezuela and the state-owned oil company Petroleum of Venezuela (PDVSA).

The experts warned that “the lives of Venezuelan transplant patients who are stranded in foreign countries, as well as those waiting to travel abroad for live-saving operations are under threat”. A trip abroad for treatment has become the only hope for hundreds of critically ill patients, they added.

This issue has been brought to the attention of the Government of the United States of America, other countries and entities. They have also called on these countries and entities “to mitigate the unexpected consequences of sanctions and reinstate treatment for people whose lives now are in danger. They must take full responsibility for the effect their actions have on the fundamental rights to life and health of every individual around the world.”

The crux of the problem lies in the fact that third countries, groups of countries, banks and private companies have been overly cautious in dealings with Venezuela because they fear unintentionally violating U.S. sanctions, the UN experts said. Consequently, money cannot be transferred out of Venezuela, and some patients have been stranded, destitute, in countries where they went for treatment.

Hitherto a programme run by the Simon Bolivar Foundation, the charitable arm of the United States-based Citgo Petroleum Corporation, was helping cancer patients, including many children, travel abroad for transplants and for other live-saving treatment.

Hundreds of these patients used to be linked to a national transplant programme with the Government of Venezuela, but their treatment was discontinued when the United States refused the control of Citgo Petroleum Corporation to the Venezuelan government.

Against this background, the experts said: “Targeting PDVSA as a way to control the political agenda of Venezuela has had devastating consequences for hundreds of people undergoing treatment for transplant rejection, both in Venezuela and abroad.” People on a State waiting list for transplants have also been informed that their treatments will not continue.

There are some 190 cancer patients on a waiting list for foreign treatment, and some 14 children, including three toddlers, died between 2017 and 2020 waiting for treatment under the programme.

These cases illustrate the need for full protection of fundamental human rights, the experts said: “States have an obligation to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of every person affected by direct international action, even those outside their jurisdiction or effective control, no matter what their original intent was.

“While the right to health and the right to life are fundamental for every individual around the world, we call on all States, banks and private companies to take full responsibility for the effects of their actions on individuals, and to withdraw sanctions, zero risk and over compliance policies affecting core human rights”. [IDN-InDepthNews — 30 July 2021]

Photo: A mother brings her young girl to a medical appointment at a health centre in Caracas, Venezuela. © UNICEF/Alejandra Pocaterra

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