Exclusive interview: Sanctions are bringing suffering and death - UN Special Rapporteur

The history tells us, how sanctions failed. But why is it still continues 


The use of economic sanctions has throughout history been an integral component of the foreign policy of most nation-states. As a blunt tool of diplomacy, the concept of sanctions has been around at least from the time of the ancient Greeks, when Athens imposed a trade embargo on its neighbour Megara in 432 B.C. Since then, there has been a long history of countries blockading their enemies to compel a change in behaviour.


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In the late nineteenth century, economic sanctions were generally used during times of war and took the form Export controls on strategic supplies and blockades against targeted countries. But how did this tactic morph into today’s “targeted” or “smart” sanctions — measures such as arms embargoes, asset freezes, and travel bans on key individuals and organizations? They may be more humane and high-tech than a flotilla at sea, but are sanctions any more effective today than they were 2,400 years ago? The history tells us, how sanctions failed.

Guest of this episode of The New Normal is Alena Douhan. Alena Douhan is a professor of the Department of International Private and European Law, Belarusian State University. Her research is focused on the law of international security, application of sanctions by states and international organizations, status of individual in International law, Human Rights in Cyber-Age, law of international treaties. She was appointed by the Human Rights Council, as the Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights. She took her office on 25 March 2020.

She talked to Nilantha Ilangamuwa, former editor of Sri Lanka Guardian from her residence in Minsk, Belarus

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