Research Handbook on UN Sanctions and International Law
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Research Handbook on UN Sanctions and International Law

Edited by Larissa van den Herik

The 1990s have been labeled the ‘Sanctions Decade’, since they witnessed an unprecedented intensification of the use of collective non-military enforcement measures, and in particular sanctions, by the post-Cold War reactivated Security Council. This Research Handbook studies the current practice of UN sanctions in international law, their interrelationship with other regimes and substantive areas of law, as well as issues arising from their implementation and application at the domestic level.
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Chapter 5: UN counter-proliferation sanctions and international law

Daniel H. Joyner


This chapter addresses the subject of the legal limitations that international law places on the imposition of coercive international economic and financial sanctions, with particular reference to sanctions with counter-proliferation aims – ie, purposed in stopping the actual or suspected proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The subject of legal limitations on coercive economic sanctions is an important one in the general consideration of the formalization of the international legal regime relative to economic sanctions. As will be discussed in this chapter, economic sanctions, whether imposed multilaterally or unilaterally, have become an increasingly utilized tool of coercive policy, particularly by powerful states and international organizations against weaker, developing states. An identification and clarification of the existing and emerging rules of international law that impose limits upon the ability of states and international organizations to lawfully impose coercive economic sanctions, is an important part of the development of a more mature and equitable international legal system. This chapter will focus on two main areas of customary international legal obligation, the sources of which impose limits on the application of coercive international economic sanctions and it will inquire to what extent these obligations apply similarly to unilateral and UN sanctions. The first is the general international law principle of economic non-coercion, and the second is international human rights law. Keywords nonproliferation, weapons of mass destruction (WMD), customary international law, economic sanctions, rights of states, coercion

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