Unilateral Sanctions in International Law: A Quest for Legality



This chapter contends that unilateral sanctions are impermissible under international law as the UN Charter addresses only collective economic measures. Unilateral sanctions are usually imposed by an individual State that resorts to unilateral sanctions as a primary tool of foreign policy with an objective of modifying the targeted country’s behavior. These sanctions are imposed by a State through application of its national legislation, which are prima facie extraterritorial in nature and against the established principles of jurisdiction under international law. The doctrine concerning extraterritorial application of national legislation, though not well settled, endorses the basic principle of international law that all national legislations are territorial in character. Hence, the unilateral sanctions and extraterritorial application of national legislation violate the legal equality of States, and principles of respect for and dignity of national sovereignty and nonintervention in the internal affairs of the State. Application of unilateral sanctions violates basic principles of the UN Charter and certain other important legal instruments. It imposes suffering and deprivation on innocent citizens of other countries, including mass human rights violations, and deprives them of their right to development and self-determination. The Asian–African Legal Consultative Organization affirms that unilateral sanctions imposed against third parties violate the principles enshrined in the UN Charter and other principles recognized through soft law such as the right to development and the Friendly Relations Declaration.


National Legislation Geneva Convention International Peace Universal Jurisdiction Economic Sanction 
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Copyright information

© T.M.C. Asser Press and the author(s) 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Asian-African Legal Consultative OrganizationNew DelhiIndia

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