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 17: UN sanctions and regional organizations: an analytical framework

Mirko Sossai


The post-Cold War period has witnessed a proliferation of sanctions by regional organizations: whereas the first decade was characterised by the economic measures taken by ECOWAS and OAS, in recent years the African Union has been one of the most dynamic players, imposing both suspensions of membership and targeted sanctions in reaction to unconstitutional changes of government within the regional area. Moreover, the European Union has adopted sanctions against non-Member States. In at least four cases in Africa, non-forcible measures were adopted by the UNSC, as well as by the EU and the AU. Given the great variety of practice, it is important to chart this diversity and to offer an analytical framework for understanding the possible interplay with UN sanctions. A fundamental distinction should be made between regional measures simply implementing UN sanctions, and the adoption of autonomous measures by regional organizations. Their legal qualification depends on whether they constitute sanctions against Members under the establishing treaty or countermeasures under general international law. Situations of concurrence with UN sanctions might occur also in these scenarios: for instance, when a UNSC decision comes after a regional organization has already taken action, or when a UN sanctions regime represents the basis for more extensive regional measures. It is important to reconstruct the legal framework governing the relationship between UN and regional organizations on the issue of non-forcible measures. The chapter analyses it from three perspectives: (i) Member States’ obligations under the UN Charter; (ii) the specific content of the treaties establishing regional organizations; and (iii) the existence of customary rules of coordination and cooperation. Keywords regional organisations, countermeasures, coordination, African Union, European Union, Iran

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