Economic sanctions in international law: drawing the line between enforcement, coercion and intervention
PhD student: Mr A. Ortega Navarro
Promotors: J. Vidmar, Dr C. Eggett
Duration: 1/9/2022 - 31/8/2026
Sanctions are an integral part of contemporary international law. The situation in Ukraine has highlighted the importance of sanctions as a tool to peacefully enforce a States international obligations. Nevertheless, while part and parcel of day-to-day interactions in the international legal order, there remain certain unanswered questions surrounding sanctions and economic coercion. How does economic coercion affect the principle of international law which prohibits intervention in the domestic affairs of another State? Are sanctions consistent with extraterritorial human rights obligations? In general, is the right to implement sanctions unlimited or are there any legal boundaries to this enforcement tool? This lack of clarity partly stems from using sanctions as an umbrella term to refer to different kinds of economic coercive measures. The research study focuses on unilateral and/or collective sanctions implemented independently from the framework of the United Nations (UN). There is a lack of clear understanding of what the principle of non-intervention means beyond the use of force and, in particular, whether and when an unlawful intervention can be of an economic rather than military nature. Non-intervention is generally interpreted with military intervention in mind and can be confused with the prohibition of the use of force. The research addresses coercion under international law through the lens of the principle of non-intervention, clearly distinguishing between military, economic, and political forms of coercion. Through this exercise, the study identifies the element of coercion which defines and indeed forms the very essence of, prohibited intervention. In order to explore the legal theory of economic coercion under international law, the research includes a comparative study centred on sanctions against: (i) Russia since 2022; (ii) Venezuela since 2013; (iii) Cuba since 1960; and (iv) Chile in the 1970s. It evaluates the political/humanitarian reasons provided to justify the sanctions against their collateral legal effects on human rights, the principle of non-intervention, and international peace and security. Through this study, the research will present a framework that clearly distinguishes between lawful sanctions and unlawful economic coercive measures.