A Look at International Documents Related to...
In human rights literature the closest term which has the real meaning for “unilateralism” is “unilateral coercive measures”. This term in its root both shows the negative unilateralism adjective and also reveals its violent and force-based nature.
Attention to the subject of pressures, threats and coercive and economic measures, were brought to the special attention of UN bodies from the beginning of the seventies, and in texts such as the “Declaration on Principles of International Law Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in Accordance with the Charter of the United Nations” , “The New International Economic Order” , and also the “Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States” , have all repeatedly reiterated that UN Member States do not have the right to carry out or encourage to carry out any form of coercive measures and apply economic and political pressures which prevent the targeted country from applying its own governance (the Principle of Non-intervention).
In Resolution 152 of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (2 July 1983) this definition found a more meaningful definition as “economic coercive measures”; and gradually in time it covered the political arena as well as the economic one It was on this basis that in Resolution 197 of the 38th UN General Assembly (1983) this fact was clearly recognised that some developed countries were resorting to threats to or applying coercive and restrictive measures more than before with the aim of putting political pressures on developing countries.
The same Resolution states that coercive measures have negative impact on the economy of developing countries, and damage the establishment of peace and friendly relations among nations. The text of the Resolution also calls on developed countries to refrain from taking any form of restricting measures such as blockade, embargo or sanctions against developing countries.
UN General Assembly Resolution 210 of 1991 also called on all states to suspend unilateral economic pressures which are with the aim of intervening in decisions. Until 1995 this Resolution submitted in the General Assembly as “Economic Measures as Means of Political and Economic Coercion against Developing Countries”, and thereafter with further attention to the negative impacts of these types of measures on the human rights of the citizens of the targeted country it became known as “human rights and unilateral coercive measures” in the General Assembly. What is significant is that at the same time as the change in the approach, in 1994 a Resolution entitled “Human Rights and Unilateral Coercive Measures” was proposed in the UN Commission on Human Rights which was approved with 23 votes in favour, and 18 against. Article 5 of this Resolution clearly “reaffirms that essential goods, in particular food and medicines, should not be used as a tool for political pressure”. Also reaffirms that essential goods, in particular food and medicines, should not be used as a tool for political pressure. In fact it is from this date onwards that alongside attention to negative impacts of unilateral sanctions on the economy of the target country, the damaging and negative human rights impacts of sanction on ordinary citizens was also specially noted.
The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights in 1993 called upon States to “refrain from any unilateral measure not in accordance with international law and the Charter of the United Nations that creates obstacles to trade relations among States and impede the full realization of the human rights set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in international human rights instruments, in particular the rights of everyone to a standard of living adequate for their health and well-being, including food and medical care, housing and the necessary social services”.
In 1996 the “Elimination of Coercive Economic Measures as a Means of Political and Economic Compulsion” Resolution which was adopted by the UN General Assembly, while deeming unilateral sanctions with extraterritorial characteristics as unlawful, it deems these laws as in conflict with the right of states in their own economic self-determination.
The condemnation process of the negative impacts of unilateral sanctions on the human rights of the citizens of the target country continued within the Commission on Human Rights until 2005, and following its replacement with the Human Rights Council, this was again followed-up by the Council and from 2007 to-date it has periodically been discussed in this body, and put to the vote and approved. This procedure also continues in the UN General Assembly and this Resolution is adopted every year.
Looking at the discourse produced by all the aforementioned resolutions indicates that unilateral coercive measures (sanctions) aside from their negative impacts, they also leave deep and often irreparable impacts on the health of citizens (right to health), healthy nourishment (right to food), enjoyment of medical treatment and medicines, enjoyment of education, entry of necessary technology for the protection of the environment and overall, right to life and development.
Furthermore, unilateral coercive measures also violate fundamental UN Charter principles, particularly the equal sovereignty of governments, territorial integrity, the non-intervention principle, and the cooperation principle. The international community has authorised the United Nations to adopt coercive economic measures in special circumstances where there is a threat against peace or violation of peace. States’ unilateral measures for application of unilateral economic measures against other states has no basis in international law.
Finally, it must be said that in general 12 resolutions in the Commission on Human Rights, 2 decisions and 9 resolutions in the Human Rights Council, and 31 resolutions in the General Assembly have been adopted on unilateral coercive measures. In this report we enumerate all resolutions on unilateral coercive measures that have been adopted by the Commission on Human Rights. In the next reports we will review resolutions adopted in the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council and also the appointment of a special rapporteur on unilateral coercive measures and reports that he and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights have submitted.
Resolutions that have been adopted by the UN Commission on Human Rights: