Call for submissions: UCM-Study on the notion, characteristics, legal status and targets of unilateral sanctions
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the Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights
To inform the Special Rapporteur’s annual thematic reports to be presented to the Human Rights Council at its 48th session in September 2021 and the General Assembly at its 76th session in October 2021.
Pursuant to Human Rights Council resolutions 27/21 and 45/5 and General Assembly resolution 74/154, the Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights is requested in fulfilling her mandate, inter alia, to gather all information relevant to the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights; to study relevant trends, developments and challenges; and to make guidelines and recommendations on ways and means to prevent, minimize and redress their adverse impact on human rights; as well as to draw the attention of the Human Rights Council, General Assembly and the High Commissioner to relevant situations and cases.
The Special Rapporteur underscores the accelerating expansion of new and different forms, types and terms used to identify unilateral means of pressure (unilateral coercive measures, sanctions, unilateral sanctions, bilateral sanctions, international sanctions, autonomous sanctions, sectoral or territorial sanctions, etc.), and the need to identify the actors involved (targeting and targeted States, source States, etc.). The current uncertainty and ambiguity in the terminology makes it impossible to identify a legal framework and the applicable standards, which undermines the rule of law, the world order and the authority of the United Nations.
The Special Rapporteur expresses her concern about the lack of analysis and systemization of existing terminology pertinent to the mandate and plans to assess the legality of various forms of sanctions imposed by States and international organizations without or beyond the authorization of the Security Council, inter alia, as concerns general international law, international economic law, human rights law, refugee law and international humanitarian law.
Another trend relates to the expansion of categories and number of targets (direct or indirect, primary or secondary, intended or unintended, specific or non-selective), which are usually not identified or are ignored. Additional concerns relate to the legal grounds, the particularities and the legality of sanctions imposed on individuals and non-State entities, especially due to the proliferation of Magnitsky-like acts.
The extraterritorial effects of unilateral sanctions raise special concerns for the Special Rapporteur due to the increasing number of reported cases of human rights violations. This includes the broad scope of aspects, starting from the general notion of extraterritoriality as regards unilateral action; the legal qualification of extraterritorial activity; the impact of extraterritorial application on third States, their nationals and legal entities; and various aspects of over-compliance. It has started to be reported that sometimes the fear of sanctions affects human rights no less than sanctions as such.
These circumstances have led the Special Rapporteur to undertake
a study on the “Notion, characteristics, legal status and targets of unilateral sanctions”. In accordance with the established practice of thematic mandate-holders, the Special Rapporteur, Ms. Alena Douhan, welcomes inputs by States, UN agencies, regional and international organizations, national human rights institutions, civil society, scholars and research institutions, and others who may wish to submit for this purpose guided by the questionnaire below. Such submissions may include, for instance, recommendations, evidence and case studies. While the questions are oriented toward States, their content may be equally addressed by others submitting input.
- From your Government’s perspective, in what circumstances are the application of unilateral sanctions/measures legal under international law? What types of activity could be qualified as illegal unilateral coercive measures? Please, specify. What definition can be proposed for the identification of unilateral coercive measures?
- What is the position of your Government on the legal status and legality (in international law) of unilateral sanctions without or beyond the authorization of the UN Security Council? What is its position on the legal status and legality of unilateral sanctions as countermeasures against another party’s unilateral sanctions? What is its position on the legal status and legality of physical means (e.g. blockades) or cyber means to enforce unilateral sanctions?
- What is the position of your Government on the legal status and legality of (a) unilateral sectoral sanctions and (b) unilateral sanctions against legal persons (individuals and entities)? Can the latter be qualified as criminal punishment / civil penalty / administrative penalty / collective punishment / any other qualification?
- What measures are taken by your Government to implement sanctions of the UN Security Council? Does your government take supplemental measures beyond the Security Council’s sanctions? Please, specify.
- What is the opinion of your Government on the extraterritorial application of unilateral sanctions (its existence, cases, forms, admissibility and legality)? Please, specify.
- Is there any legal ground from the perspective of your Government for individuals or entities that violate the rules of a unilateral sanctions regime to be targeted by sanctions (secondary sanctions)? What is the position of your Government on the legal status and legality of secondary sanctions in international law (a) when the targets are domestic citizens or entities, and (b) when the targets are extraterritorial? What rules are applied to nationals of third states as concerns the application of secondary sanctions?
- What is the position of your Government towards over-compliance with sanctions resulting from extraterritorial enforcement? Please, specify. How does your Government address such “over-compliance”?
- Who, from the perspective of your Government, can be viewed as targets of unilateral sanctions? Please, specify. What rights of targets of unilateral sanctions are affected?