United Nations’ doublethink: economic sanctions and human rights protection

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Stefanovska, Dragana
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Global Campus of Human Rights
The most common understanding of ‘use of force’ is associated with military coercion. Examinations in the political and public spheres as well as legal inquiries are extensively provided to most armed conflicts, also in regard to regular counting of the number of victims – considering that unjustified death caused by a military action is an obvious, blatant violation of the right to life. Accordingly, responsible actors are often subjected to moral and legal scrutiny. Nearly all of the deadliest conflicts fought since the end of the Second World War, by the number of victims – the Vietnam War, the wars in the DRC, in Iraq and in Syria – have been, to a large part, caused by unilateral interventions outside of UN’s framework. The harshest criticism towards the UN in these cases, therefore, has taken the form of accusations of inaction on its part. Nonetheless, several cases of economic coercion enacted precisely by the UN – the global guardian of human rights – as this study will show, have caused repercussions comparable – both by causing human rights violations and by increasing the level of threat against international peace and security – to repercussions of armed conflicts. A problem arises due to the fact that since the UN Charter provides the SC with the authority to introduce economic sanctions under Article 41, the legality and legitimacy of economic coercion enacted by the UN is rarely disputed. This study will argue that the SC’s usage of economic force needs to be re-examined – not only because it causes legal and practical discrepancies within the working of the UN as a single body – in light of UN’s dedication to human rights protection; but also because a thorough examination shows that there is no coherent evidence for sanctions’ successful contribution towards international peace and security – the legal premise cited when sanctions are enacted. A guiding principle in this research has been the recognition that victims of starvation and/or lack of basic medical supplies also need to be counted as fatalities of a grave crime, as the half a million dead Iraqi children or the possible millions of dead Yemeni children – victims of the coercive use of economic force – deserve the same condemnation as direct victims of military campaigns. Keywords: UN, SC, Economic sanctions, International peace and security, Human rights
ERMA - European Regional Master’s Programme in Democracy and Human Rights in South-East Europe, University of Sarajevo and University of Bologna.
Global Campus - South-East Europe
United Nations. Security Council, international security, peace, economic sanctions, human rights, poverty