How Economic Sanctions Can Help Bring Peace – OpEd


By Dimah Talal Alsharif*

At a time of growing tension in the Middle East, with so many countries beset by terrorism and all-out war, the role of international humanitarian law is increasingly important in attempts to maintain peace and security, and to resolve disputes between states.

When diplomatic solutions fail, there can be penalties, often including economic sanctions, which raises an important question: What is the legal framework that defines the mechanism of imposing economic sanctions on a specific country?

Economic sanctions can generally be defined as the process of suspending or severing trade and financial relations, usually to achieve a political or security aim. They may be imposed by the UN, by a bloc of states or by a single state, as a means of pressuring a country to change its political, military, economic or even social behavior, and to respect the rules of international humanitarian law.

It is important to note that while the UN Security Council is concerned with finding peaceful solutions to international conflicts, it is also within its competence to employ force if an act of aggression by a state constitutes a threat to international peace.

The legal framework for the imposition of economic sanctions is mainly set out in Articles 39, 41 and 42 of the UN Charter, the foundational treaty of the UN, which articulates a commitment to uphold human rights and defines a set of principles aimed at doing so.

Article 41 stipulates the powers of the UN Security Council to decide on measures that do not require the use of armed force to maintain peace. Such measures may include the partial or total suspension of economic ties, rail, sea, air, postal and other means of transport and communications, and severing diplomatic relations.

Economic sanctions may include the suspension of loans and investments, or the freezing of financial accounts abroad. There may also be restrictions on international trade with the target state, and a prohibition or limit on the export or import of certain types of weapons, food, medicines or raw materials.

The aim of such sanctions is to affect the decision-making process in the target state, but they may also significantly affect civil society; ordinary people may bear the unfair and exhausting consequences of such sanctions, especially if the government of the target state is unaccountable to its people, and governs by tyranny.

Strengthening the rule of international law contributes significantly to the peace, protection and security of individual states and their people, and to this end many laws and treaties have been developed over the past decades. The UN has led significant efforts to promote international humanitarian law, and the Security Council has become increasingly involved in protecting civilians from the consequences of armed conflict, promoting human rights and protecting children in wars.

However, without sufficient awareness and the appropriate application of these treaties and other measures, the sad fact is that they will remain merely a collection of papers gathering dust in an archive.

*Dimah Talal Alsharif is a Saudi legal consultant, head of the health law department at the law firm of Majed Garoub and a member of the International Association of Lawyers. Twitter: @dimah_alsharif

Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

One thought on “How Economic Sanctions Can Help Bring Peace – OpEd

  • September 26, 2019 at 11:13 am

    The article is really very bad. It destroys the truth and morality of journalism. The article has never brought evidence showing that sanctions in all its forms have brought peace to any country of region. I can give this example. In 1991 Iraq started the first Gulf war by occupying another Arab country because the leader was unhappy about some financial issues. The US imperialism under George Bush 1 formed an alliance of 32 countries and US forces of about 500K to destroy Iraq by continuous bombing, given the fact that George Bush 1 had told the President of Iraq to take the Arab country and its oil and the Saudi defense minister had no problem with it because President saddam Hussain was his brother.
    The Saudis, other Arab Gulf States, and the UN imposed sanctions on Iraq. The sanctions were very harsh on the Iraqi people. They killed a half-million Iraqi babies and elderly. The country was disintegrated inside-out and people were living in hopless condition. The world, after several years, discovered the death in Iraq due to the sanctions. Some ease was done.
    But given Iraq weakness due to the sanctions, George Bush 2 decided to invade and occupy Iraq. Iraq has not recovered yet, because it has been economically and financially difficult to rebuild what was destroyed due to the wars and sanctions.
    Other countries had the same problems due to Sanctions such The Federal Government of Yogoslavia. Yogoslavia a great country was destroyed and by US bombing and world sanctions. The country was disintegrated into several countries, most of them are less stronger than the whole country.
    There have been sanctions on Cuba, Iran, Syria, and Venezuela. These sanctions are hurting and killing people too. These sanctions are no longer imposed by the UN but by the USA. The reason is very simple in that these countries do not submit to the US rules. Iran and Cuba have been on sanctions for the 40 and 59 years, respectively. The sanctions are also used for some years and then the mission of occupying the country will be implemented, as was happened in Iraq and Serbia.
    These sanctions whether imposed by the UN and the USA are methods of terrorism. When the dominant country cannot imposed its will on a smaller country militarily the dominant country, here is the USA, will use sanctions to destroy the other country. For example, Trump is happy about hurting Iran and Syria and Venezuella as a result of his strong sanctions in history.
    Finally, those countries subjected to sanctions should behave differently. They should react in any means possible to annoy the the country imposing the sanctions. The countries should defend themselves against terrorist states and foreign occupiers. For example, Syria has the right to bomb the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia because the Kingdom imposed sanctions on Syria and sent thousands of terrorists to destablize Syria. The Kingdom is doing the same with Iran. It wants the USA to prevent Iran from exporting oil in order for Kingdom to sell more of its oil to make more revenues, as it did when put sanctions on Iraq after 1991.


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