International Sanctions

Category: WTO Sub-category: International Sanctions
Document type: article


International sanctions are actions taken by countries against others for political reasons, either unilaterally or multilaterally.

There are three types of sanctions viz.

  1. Diplomatic sanctions - the reduction or removal of diplomatic ties, such as embassies.
  2. Economic sanctions - typically a ban on trade, possibly limited to certain sectors such as armaments, or with certain exceptions (such as food and medicine)
  3. Military sanctions - military intervention

Economic sanctions are distinguished from trade sanctions, which are applied for purely economic reasons, and typically take the form of tariffs or similar measures, rather than bans on trade.


  1. Diplomatic sanctions
  2. Economic sanctions
  3. Military sanctions
  4. See also
  5. References

Diplomatic sanctions
As an example, the European Union imposed diplomatic sanctions on Cuba after the latter broke a moratorium on capital punishment in 2003. Measures included limitations on high-level government visits.[1]

Economic sanctions
Economic sanctions can vary from imposing import duties on goods from, or blocking the export of certain goods to the target country, to a full naval blockade of its ports in an effort to verify, and curb or block specified imported goods.

Well known examples of economic sanctions include the United Nations sanctions against South Africa, United Nations sanctions against Rhodesia, United Nations sanctions against Iraq (1990-2003) and the United States embargo against Cuba (1962-present). Since 1993 many countries have imposed trade sanctions on Burma (Myanmar). South Africa is the typical case study used for giving sanctions credibility, though that is a contentious claim itself.

On May 13, 1998, the United States and Japan imposed economic sanctions on India, following its second round of nuclear tests.

In 2001/2002, the United States imposed economic sanctions against the state of Zimbabwe, through the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001 or ZDERA, S. 494, restricting access to financing, debt relief and rescheduling, forcing the government to operate on a cash only basis.

Military sanctions
Similarly, military sanctions can range from carefully-targeted airborne assaults by bombers and military forces (such as Israel's 1981 bombing of Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor) which was carried out to stop Iraq's Nuclear Program (because Iraq attempted to make a Nuclear Bomb) to invasion and occupation. A less aggressive form of military sanctions could be the 15 year embargo on sales of F-16 fighter/bomber aircraft by the United States to Pakistan which ran from 1990 to 2005 in response to Pakistan's development of nuclear weapons[2]. (The latter is considered a military sanction, not an economic one.)

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