Violation of the Right to Health Due to International Sanctions and International Responsibility of States

Document Type : Original Article from Result of Thesis


1 PhD. Student of Public International Law, Isfahan Branch (Khorasgan), Islamic Azad University, Isfahan (Khorasgan), Iran.

2 Associate Prof. at t Law Department, Esfahan (Khorasgan) Branch, Islamic Azad University, (Khorasgan), Iran

3 Associate Prof. at Law Department,, Najafabad, Branch, Islamic Azad University, Najafabad, Iran


Today, sanctions of varying types are employed by one or several states as the most practical means of applying pressure in the international system to protect human rights, fight terrorism, and prevent war, among others. It has always been controversial to investigate sanctions and human rights violations and the associated consequences, particularly the violation of the right to health. This article seeks to answer the question, "What is the international responsibility of states for violations of the right to health resulting from sanctions?" This analysis presumes that sanctions from various aspects, particularly economic ones, result in human rights violations, including the right to health. Building on the proposed hypothesis and legal documents and evidence, this study examines the legal basis and the effects of imposing sanctions on human rights standards, international legal documents, the prohibition of international sanctions, the concept of international responsibility of states in international law, and the foundations of creating international responsibility of states (caused by sanctions).



Sanction is a part of international diplomacy that prevails in today’s world. The countries imposing sanctions use it as a non-military tool to force the government of the target countries to produce their expected reaction. Economic sanctions refer to reducing, ceasing, or threatening to cease the conventional economic, commercial, and financial relations, which are applied by one country against a target country. Conventional relations mean the relations without the impact of the imposed sanctions. Moreover, the sanction is an economic weapon in a non-military battlefield, which extends diplomacy beyond discourse and puts it into action. The institutions imposing the sanctions might be the state of one or several countries including the US and European countries, or an international organization, i.e., the UN. The implementation of international sanctions, particularly economic sanctions by some states without the prior authorization of the Security Council and outside the Charter's public security system cast doubt on the legitimacy of these actions in terms of their compliance with principles of international law. The institutions imposing sanctions bring up the principle of the states’ freedom to either communicate or break off their commercial relations with other states to justify their actions. In some cases, unilateral sanctions were merely imposed to accomplish the policies of the powerful states. International sanctions, particularly unilateral economic sanctions, are among the crucial tools employed in international relations. On account of the increasing use of these sanctions, their substantial social and economic effects and costs imposed on the target countries, the non-state actors, and third parties raise a question regarding their position in international law. Moreover, these sanctions are inseparable parts of the governing systems of states, which can be applied in various forms such as trade embargoes, import and export control, as well as restrictions on investment, financing, and state aid. Over these years, numerous types of sanctions are imposed as a foreign policy tool. In general, sanctions include a group of measures, ranging from the verbal sentence to military interventions. Following the indices of the International Covenant for Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), sanctions have directly affected access to medicine, treatment, food, and healthy drinking water. The subject that was emphasized in this Covenant and all states shall practice it. In addition, all states shall observe and respect human rights and freedom and promote them around the world. All nations are entitled to autonomy, and due to this, they are authorized to freely determine their political, economic, social, and cultural development. The ICESCR can be addressed in regard to the direct impact of sanctions, which deems freedom of speech, freedom of association, and political freedom as the indices of political and civil rights. However, whatever the ultimate goal of international sanctions, particularly unilateral economic sanctions, they must correspond to the international covenants of human rights in terms of the international commitments of states.


Research Objective

Considering the absence of well-established and sufficient regulations regarding responsibility in international law, the international community shall issue regulations to limit the will of subjects of international law. To diminish the freedom to commit unlimited actions producing responsibility. This article seeks to identify the system of international responsibility of states concerning the international community and laws. Identifying the effects of international sanctions, especially their destructive impacts on the target countries and their influence on human rights such as the right to health in our country and other countries. The main question of this article: What is the international responsibility of states regarding the violation of the right to health due to sanctions?                                                                                       


Research Methodology

This is a descriptive-analytical study. This article scientifically utilized various books and articles through library methods, as well as reliable studies in accordance with the valid documents and judicial procedures of international authorities to substantiate if there is a relationship between international sanctions and the international responsibility of states.


Results & Discussion

Imposing sanctions that violate human rights lacks legal legitimacy. The absence of legal legitimacy of these types of sanctions produces two outcomes: A lack of necessity of countries to observe these sanctions and a burden of international responsibilities falling on states and institutions imposing the sanctions due to the violation of human rights. In the international responsibility laws, Articles on the responsibility of countries mentioned the outcomes include restoring the former status, gaining the satisfaction of the injured party, mutual actions, and compensation for damages.



The right to live is one of the greatest and most crucial rights, which includes the right to health. The disastrous impact of sanctions, particularly comprehensive sanctions, on the right to health, which is certainly among the imperative and inviolable laws, cannot be denied since pervasive poverty interferes with the ability to provide social services, which leads to food and drug scarcity. Consequently, sanctions result in the spread of diseases and an increase in mortality rate. The right to live, which encompasses the right to health, is among the public obligations or erga omnes. Thus, any action violating the right to live, especially violating the right to health lacks international legitimacy and produces responsibility for the country violating these rights. Thus, in the process of international sanctions, aspects such as their legitimacy, necessity, and proportion, as well as their impact on civilians should be taken into account.


Main Subjects

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