• Wed. Sep 28th, 2022

US must allow Venezuela to import parts for microscopes essential for disease diagnosis, says UN expert

ByRandall B. Phelps

Sep 19, 2022

GENEVA (September 19, 2022) – A UN expert today called on the United States to allow the shipment to Venezuela of spare parts for electron microscopes essential for detecting disease and conducting crucial medical research, saying that the sanctions currently blocking them violate the rights of the Venezuelan people to health and life.

Electron microscopes are commonly used in medical diagnostics, but it’s been nearly four years since two Venezuelan institutions ordered spare parts for theirs. Of 14 electron microscopes in Venezuela made by a unit of the American company Thermo Fisher Scientific, only three are still working, and the company has been unable to obtain authorization from the United States to export the necessary parts.

“In addition to the legal obligation to comply with human rights law, the United States also has a moral obligation to the people of Venezuela not to deprive them of their basic human rights,” said Alena Douhan, rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, calling on the US authorities either to lift the sanctions, which are legally dubious under international law, or to quickly grant the corresponding export licenses.

“Electron microscopes are the only way to detect many diseases, so they are essential for proper treatment,” Douhan said. “The U.S. government has an obligation under international human rights law not to interfere with the ability of Venezuelan doctors to properly diagnose illnesses. Without accurate diagnoses and treatments, people can die. »

Electron microscopes are also used in research that advances medical knowledge, and research done in Venezuela on viruses like SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, has been vital to the world.

“International law protects the right of people around the world to benefit from scientific progress, but that cannot happen when scientists are unable to continue their research,” the expert said, noting that microscopes are covered by the Florence Agreement, an international treaty that commits participating countries, including the United States, to facilitate trade in scientific products.

Electron microscopes are also used in crime labs to examine evidence and thus play a role in ensuring justice through the due process rights guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. “The United States has targeted some Venezuelan judges with sanctions to show its displeasure with the functioning of the Venezuelan judicial system, but it should not use its other sanctions against Venezuela to undermine the system’s structural ability to deliver justice,” he said. Douhan said.

The right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, as well as the right to pursue scientific research and to benefit from its results, are enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and are part of customary international law. These rights, along with the right to life, are also enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Ms. Alena Douhan (Belarus) was named as Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights by the Human Rights Council in March 2020. Ms. Douhan has extensive experience in the fields of international law and human rights as a professor of international law at the ‘Belarusian State University (Minsk), visiting professor at the Institute of International Law of Peace and Armed Conflict (Bochum, Germany) and the director of the Center for Peace Research (Minsk). She received her Ph.D. from Belarusian State University in 2005 and obtained Dr. hab. in international law and European law in 2015 (Belarus). Ms. Douhan’s academic and research interests lie in the areas of international law, sanctions and human rights law, international security law, the law of international organizations, international dispute settlement and international law. of the environment.

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