TEHRAN -- Iran has between $100 billion and $120 billion trapped in foreign accounts because of U.S. sanctions, a United Nations human rights envoy told reporters in Tehran on Wednesday.
Alena Douhan, the UN Special Rapporteur on Unilateral Coercive Measures, is visiting Iran to assess the impact of Washington’s penalties on the Islamic Republic.
“I urge the states that have frozen the assets of Iranian Central Bank to immediately unfreeze Iran’s funds based on international law,” she told reporters here.
Douhan said decades of sanctions have wholly affected Iranian people’s lives and have particularly hit the low-income section of the society.
She called on Washington to abandon its hard-nosed policy of maximum pressure against Iran and other countries.
Douhan arrived in Tehran earlier this month. She said she had met with many civil society members, representatives of financial centers, diplomatic community during her visit.
Douhan’s mission from May 7 to 18 is the first to Iran by a UN special rapporteur. She said she will address her concerns about the legality of U.S. sanctions in her final report, which will be released at a later date.
The U.S., she said, has since the 1970s imposed crippling economic and trade sanctions on Iran and significantly expanded them since the early 2000s.
In May 2018, former president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from the 2015 nuclear deal and reinstated harsh economic sanctions on Iran and slapped new ones in an unprecedented move that was widely decried by various countries.
His successor, Joe Biden, who was vice president when the nuclear deal was inked in 2015, promised to return his country to the deal, but his administration has failed to undo Washington’s past wrongs.
According to the UN special rapporteur, the U.S. continues to illegally ban trade and investment in Iran, forcing foreign companies to leave the country for fear of sanctions.
Douhan’s landmark visit to Iran came amid the stalemate over reviving the nuclear deal, with the U.S. refusing to respond to Iran’s proposals.
Decrying the U.S. decision to abandon the nuclear deal and continue with its sanctions regime, she said the deal had been endorsed by UN Security Council Resolution 2231.
“Applying extraterritorial sanctions on Iranian companies or companies working with Iran … is illegal under international law,” she asserted.
Douhan began her 11-day visit to Iran on May 7, a day before the fourth anniversary of the U.S. illegal withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the nuclear deal is officially called.
Last week, Iran’s top human rights official Kazem Gharibabadi said Douhan’s visit was only aimed at gathering information on the impact of sanctions to hold countries to account.
“Nations hit by sanctions should use all available resources to hold the countries calling for and enforcing unilateral sanctions liable,” Gharibabadi said.
His comments came in response to reports in Western media accusing Iran of exploiting the visit to avoid accountability