Collective penalties against the weakest (new-deutschland.de)

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Sanctions bring nothing.

Sanctions bring nothing.

Photo: dpa / Fredrik Von Erichsen

When demonstrators are beaten down in China, a tanker is hijacked on the Gulf or the rainforest is burned in Brazil, it is not long before politicians call for sanctions in the West. Targeted punitive measures against human rights criminals are then discussed. Of diplomatic pressure to persuade unwelcome despots to insight. From a nonviolent alternative to bombs and missiles to liberate societies from the oppression of their own rulers. However, the talk of world improvement through coercive measures has nothing to do with the reality of western sanctions policy.


Fabian Goldmann is a freelance journalist and Islamic scholar. He lives in Berlin.

Fabian Goldmann is a freelance journalist and Islamic scholar. He lives in Berlin.

Photo: Camay Sungu

Research shows that economic punitive measures almost never reach their destination. Not even five percent of the sanctions of the past 80 years have been able to deliver on their promises. Economic embargoes, lockdowns or entry bans were unable to persuade Syria's President Bashar Assad to renounce his power, nor to induce Vladimir Putin to give up Crimea. In Iran, Cuba, Myanmar or North Korea, people have suffered for decades from economic blockades in the West without endangering the rule of the elites there.

However, Western sanctions policies fail not only to prevent human rights crimes. They even carry them. Repressive measures such as torture, politically motivated detention and extrajudicial killings are not decreasing in sanctioned countries. Despots consolidate their power under the threat of punitive measures, and oppositionists lose their influence.

Sanctions almost never lead to political change. Nevertheless, they are not ineffective. Countless publications by international humanitarian organizations show that it is above all the civilian population that suffers from the measures: economies are collapsing, unemployment is growing rapidly, and the gap between rich and poor is increasing rapidly. And often sanctions lead entire countries into humanitarian catastrophe.

Unlike the Iraq embargoes of the 1990s, when the nation's total economic blockade cost 500,000 children, according to the United Nations Children's Fund, food and medicines are barely appearing on sanctions lists today. But instead, the exclusion of international payments and export bans on a country's most important sources of revenue ensure that states can theoretically order the essentials of life for their people, but in practice can not pay. Whether US sanctions against Venezuela, EU sanctions against Syria or international sanctions against North Korea: sanctions everywhere are helping food and health care to collapse and aid organizations often have to stop working.

“One thing we all need to understand is that today's economic sanctions and financial blockades are akin to medieval sieges on cities with the intention of forcing them to surrender,” said US lawyer Alfred de Zayas in June of this year after being commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council had examined the consequences of US sanctions against Venezuela.

Such “sieges,” despite their devastating effects, are now more popular than ever. More than 150 times, the UN Security Council has adopted economic restrictions over the past ten years. For comparison, in the 1990s, he did so only five times. 8,000 individual sanctions have been imposed by the United States, including 2,000 in the past four years alone. Over 30 states are currently on the EU sanctions policy.

With around a third of the world's population, more people than ever before are affected by economic sanctions. At best, “target-oriented” in this policy is that all the decrees aim at resolutions and regulations, almost always from economically rich states to economically poor ones. Sanctions are not a tool against human rights criminals, they are themselves human rights crimes. They are not targeted measures to protect against despots, but collective fines of the strongest against the weakest.

. (TagsToTranslate) Human Rights (t) sanctions

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