The term “unilateral coercive measures” usually refers to economic measures taken by one State to compel a change in the policy of another State. Examples of such measures include trade sanctions in the form of embargoes and the interruption of financial and investment flows between sender and target countries. More recently, so-called “smart” or “targeted” sanctions such as asset freezing and travel bans have been employed by individual States in order to influence persons who are perceived to have political influence in another State. Several discussions, resolutions and reports presented to the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, and the former Commission on Human Rights have addressed the issue of the impact of unilateral coercive measures on the full enjoyment of human rights. 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”.
The Non-Aligned Movement too has taken a principled stand against unilateral coercive measures and has rejected the unilateral exercise by certain countries of extra-territorial criminal and civil jurisdiction of national courts not emanating from international treaties and other obligations arising from international law, including international humanitarian law. NAM has expressed its concerned on the enactment of politically motivated domestic laws directed against other States, and stressed the negative impact of such measures on the rule of international law as well as on international relations, and called for the immediate cessation of all such measures.
The Final Declaration of the 2016 NAM summit, NAM Member States expressed their condemnation at the promulgation and application of unilateral coercive measures against countries of the Movement, in violation of the Charter of the United Nations and international law, particularly the principles of non-intervention, self-determination and independence of States subject of such practices.
In this respect, they reiterated their determination to denounce and demand the repeal of such measures, which affect human rights and prevent the full economic and social development of the peoples who are subjected to them. Similarly, they reaffirmed that each State has full sovereignty over the totality of its wealth, natural resources and economic activity, exercising it freely.
The NAM Algiers Ministerial Declaration of 2014 stated that in case a Member suffers harm as a result of the imposition of unilateral sanctions or embargos, the Movement should express its solidarity with the affected country through the provision of moral, material and other forms of assistance. To this end, the Movement affirmed its objective to continue to review the Movement’s existing mechanisms and explore new mechanisms for rendering such assistance, if necessary.
At various international human rights forums, NAM has been vocal against the imposition of unilateral coercive measures, particularly against the developing nations. In September 2016, the Chair of NAM at the Human Rights Council stated that “laws and regulations imposing unilateral coercive measures have an extra territorial effect not only on targeted countries but also on third countries, in contravention of basic principles of international law. In this regard, NAM recognizes that unilateral coercive measures in the form of economic sanctions have far-reaching implications for the human rights of the general population of targeted States, disproportionately affecting the poor and the most vulnerable classes, notably that, most current unilateral coercive measures have been imposed on developing countries.” Hence, NAM has reiterated that, adoption of unilateral coercive measures, rules and policies, for any cause or consideration, against developing countries is contrary to international law, human rights law and the basic rights of populations such as the right to life, the right to health and medical care, the righ0t to freedom from hunger and the right to an adequate standard of living. The Movement has laid stress on the need for an independent mechanism of the United Nations human rights machinery for the victims of unilateral coercive measure to address the issues of remedies and redress with a view to promote accountability and reparations.