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Sanctions bring suffering not solutions, UN expert warns

Sanctions warning

18 October 2017

NEW YORK (18 October 2017) – Unilateral sanctions are not the answer to the crises being faced in the world today, and the international community should not impose them, United Nations Special Rapporteur Idriss Jazairy has said.

“States resort to unilateral sanctions to coerce other States to their will, but innocent victims bear the brunt of the suffering.  Diplomatic solutions are difficult and sometimes slow, but they are definitely the preferred alternative,” Mr Jazairy stated at the UN General Assembly in New York.

“Damaging a country’s economy with sanctions usually leads to violations of the rights of ordinary people. Sanctions are disruptive for any State, and can have a particularly devastating impact on the citizens of developing countries when they impair the economy,” he added.

The Special Rapporteur said he had found “worrying implications” for the human rights of citizens in 11 countries where he had reviewed the impact of sanctions in depth. 

He urged States to adopt a Declaration on Unilateral Coercive Measures and the Rule of Law, which would set out shared principles on the use of sanctions and international law, and he renewed his call for a registry of sanctions, to bring greater transparency to the practice.

“A registry would allow States, civil society and any other interested parties to know at all times what sanctions are in place, helping companies to conduct their businesses, and ensuring the sanctions meet human rights standards,” Mr. Jazairy said.

The expert praised the US for lifting all remaining economic and trade sanctions against Sudan, a decision which was confirmed by the Trump administration on 6 October after the process was begun under President Obama.

Reporting on his visit to Russia in April, Mr. Jazairy said sanctions had not achieved the desired effect but had damaged others. 

“It appears that sanctions have not changed Russia’s position, but instead have caused economic losses for agricultural producers in both the EU and Russia,” he said.  “Serious, credible dialogue and negotiations are needed to resolve political issues, without creating additional harm for farmers.”

The expert also expressed concern about sanctions which had an impact outside the territory being targeted. 
“It is well established that sanctions which apply to parties outside of the dispute are illegal, but sanctions which lead to human rights violations also create an obligation on the imposing state to take measures to repair the harm they have caused,” Mr. Jazairy said.

“It is vital that States observe these principles, particularly in difficult times,” he added.


Mr. Idriss Jazairy was appointed by the Human Rights Council as the first Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights. He took office in May 2015. Mr. Jazairy has extensive experience in the fields of international relations and human rights with the Algerian Foreign Ministry, the UN human rights system and international NGOs. He holds a M.A. (Oxford) in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, and an M.P.A. (Harvard). He also graduated from the Ecole nationale d’Administration (France). Mr. Jazairy is the author of books and of a large number of articles in the international press on development, human rights and current affairs.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

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