Sanctions And Their Impact On Human Rights

Project and Seminar Material for Political Science

Sanctions And Their Impact On Human Rights


This study is on sanctions and their impact on human rights. The total population for the study is 200 staff of national human right commission, Abuja. The researcher used questionnaires as the instrument for the data collection. Descriptive Survey research design was adopted for this study. A total of 133 respondents made human right commission officers, lawyers, administrative staff and junior staff were used for the study. The data collected were presented in tables and analyzed using simple percentages and frequencies

Chapter One

1.0 Introduction

1.1. Background of the Study

Sanctions are actions taken unilaterally or jointly against a State considered to be a threat for world peace and security. Sanctions have been applied in different forms since the time immemorial; however, the first case of sanctions as a foreign policy tool was recorded in 432 BC during the time of Pericles used by Athenian government against Megara, the incident which eventually led to Peloponnesian war. 1 Since then, sanctions have been used at various times to compel states to respect international law and to yield to the demands of the sanctioning states. Particularly, after the end of Cold War, they appeared to be better alternative to war which are frequently used by States. Traditionally, sanctioning countries3 (more generally the international community) have tended to impose comprehensive type of sanctions that include restraining economic, cultural, political and diplomatic links with states that deemed to possess objectionable behavior. However, comprehensive sanctions often produce results that run counter to other norms, like the protection of vulnerable groups of the people and the promotion of basic human rights that are embedded in the United Nations Charter and human rights treaties It is accepted that sanctions and any other international measures should serve the good will of the people and should respect international norms and treaties. As long as sanctions run counter to international norms and the will of the people, it is impossible to speak of it as effective. The purpose of sanctions should be to compel the transgressor state to conform to the law and to make it respect and promote the dignity and rights of the people either by rewarding it for improvements it shows or punishing that government separately from the people if the government is unwilling or reluctant to respect the international norms and the dignity of the people. Recently, in order to avoid damaging aspects of economic sanctions and minimize their ineffectiveness, there is a trend to resort to targeted or smart type of sanctions. However, this too has raised questions whether they are able to make compel the targeted government to the law, whether they can avoid human rights violations and whether they are really smart enough. Here for the purpose of this study, I have selected two cases from Africa to explore the impact of sanctions on Human Rights. I select these two cases because of the diversity of the nature of their sanctions which would help us understand the interplay of sanctions and human rights in different situations

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Although, sanctions have been practiced, as one form of foreign policy tool, for centuries by States and International Organizations, there are still mounting debates within scholars and policy makers concerning the impacts and effectiveness of sanctions. The most famous work on the sanctions by Hufbauer G.C. et al (1990), found that only one-third of the cases of sanctions they studied are fully or partially successful. Few years later, Pape R.A. (1997) re-studied the same cases studied by Hufbauer G.C. et al (1990) and found only five percent of the cases are inarguably successful. Both studies indicate that, in spite of the immeasurable costs they bear on the sanctioning and targeted states, sanctions in most cases do not have pleasing success stories in achieving the demands of the sanctioning countries. These scholars and most of studies on sanctions success, even if they contribute a much to the discourse of sanctions, attempted to measure the success of sanctions only from the perspective of fulfilling the policy objectives of the sanctioning states. Due emphasis has not been given for the suffering of the innocents and violations of their human rights in the process of forcing the target through sanctions. As, among other things, sanctions are implemented to protect the human rights of the people in the targeted state, it is distressing to see when they fail to do this task and even exacerbate the violations. Measuring the success of the sanctions only by looking at the extent at which they achieve the policy objectives of the sanctioning countries (senders) is partial part of the whole story. The prices paid in order to achieve the policy objectives of the sanctions need to be included in measuring the success of sanctions. Previous studies indicate, sanctions have already unpleasant success stories even without including the human rights issues in measuring their success. Another part of the paradox is that, even if the success of sanctions is viewed with skepticism, countries are still applying it. Given the fact that the implementation of sanctions as a foreign policy tool is on rise, academicians have the responsibility to do more researches to aid policy makers in order to maximize the effectiveness of sanctions and minimize its negative impacts on human rights. These two cases from Africa have relevance since they can show the impacts of both comprehensive and the so called targeted sanctions on the regular people. Largely, in recent years, countries, regional and international organizations are turning their face to targeted sanctions; because they found comprehensive economic sanctions costly and damaging on the overall lives of the citizens of the targeted state. It is largely believed that targeted sanctions have less human rights tragedies than comprehensive ones; since, in principle, they only target those who are in power and elites who are related to them. However, in practice, it is been observed that countries under targeted sanctions too have been experiencing different kinds of crisis.

1.3 Objective of the Study

The objectives of the study are;

  1. To ascertain the impact of sanction in Nigeria by using human right measurements
  2. To ascertain the impacts of sanctions on the livelihoods of citizens in Nigeria
  3. To ascertain how sanctions are effectively used in Nigeria
  4. To ascertain the situations that led to sanctions in Nigeria

1.4 Research Hypotheses

For the successful completion of the study, the following research hypotheses were formulated by the researcher;

  1. H0: there is no impact of sanction in Nigeria by using human right measurements
    H1: there is impact of sanction in Nigeria by using human right measurements
  2. H02: there are no situations that led to sanctions in Nigeria
    H2: there are situations that led to sanctions in Nigeria

1.5 Significance of the Study

This study has importance in the sense that it strives to delve in to controversial issue of sanctions and human rights. By exploring the real impacts of sanctions on human rights in Nigeria, this paper will add insights to the stock of knowledge in the area. It will also provide information which would be used by policy makers and academicians who are interested in this area. Besides, it informs countries and international community to reach on consensus on the terms of sanctions with targeted entities, to consider other less harmful and more effective foreign policy tools and to always make assessments before they impose sanctions on a particular country and also to do periodic assessments and corrections during the sanctions period. Additionally, it informs them to design and implement sanctions based on the situations, the nature of domestic politics, the existing power relations and the ways they are applied. By doing so, this study recommends ways to make sanctions more effective. This study can also serve as an input for researchers who want to further explore the impacts of sanctions on the civilians in these two relatively understudied cases of sanctions as well as in other cases of sanctions.

1.6 Scope and Limitation of the Study

The scope of the study covers sanctions and their impact on human rights. The researcher encounters some constrain which limited the scope of the study;

a) Availability of Research Material:

The research material available to the researcher is insufficient, thereby limiting the study

b) Time:

The time frame allocated to the study does not enhance wider coverage as the researcher has to combine other academic activities and examinations with the study.

c) Organizational Privacy:

Limited Access to the selected auditing firm makes it difficult to get all the necessary and required information concerning the activities.

1.7 Definition of Terms


Sanctions, in law and legal definition, are penalties or other means of enforcement used to provide incentives for obedience with the law, or with rules and regulations

Human Right:

Human rights are moral principles or norms that describe certain standards of human behaviour and are regularly protected as natural and legal rights in municipal and international law

1.8 Organization of the Study

This research work is organized in five chapters, for easy understanding, as follows

  • Chapter one is concern with the introduction, which consist of the (overview, of the study), historical background, statement of problem, objectives of the study, research hypotheses, significance of the study, scope and limitation of the study, definition of terms and historical background of the study.
  • Chapter two highlights the theoretical framework on which the study is based, thus the review of related literature.
  • Chapter three deals on the research design and methodology adopted in the study.
  • Chapter four concentrate on the data collection and analysis and presentation of finding.
  • Chapter five gives summary, conclusion, and recommendations made of the study

Chapter Five

Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Introduction

It is important to ascertain that the objective of this study was to ascertain sanctions and their impact on human rights. In the preceding chapter, the relevant data collected for this study were presented, critically analyzed and appropriate interpretation given. In this chapter, certain recommendations made which in the opinion of the researcher will be of benefits in addressing the challenges of sanctions and their impact on human rights

5.2 Summary

This study was on sanctions and their impact on human rights. Five objectives were raised which included: To ascertain the impact of sanction in Nigeria by using human right measurements, to ascertain the impacts of sanctions on the livelihoods of citizens in Nigeria, to ascertain how sanctions are effectively used in Nigeria, to ascertain the situations that led to sanctions in Nigeria. In line with these objectives, two research hypotheses were formulated and two null hypotheses were posited. The total population for the study is 200 staff of national human right commission, Abuja. The researcher used questionnaires as the instrument for the data collection. Descriptive Survey research design was adopted for this study. A total of 133 respondents made human right commission officers, lawyers, administrative staff and junior staff were used for the study. The data collected were presented in tables and analyzed using simple percentages and frequencies

5.3 Conclusion

The comprehensive sanctions against Nigeria were targeted on the whole population and they brought severe consequences on the people. Since they are comprehensive, they are not flexible enough. Unlike the comprehensive sanctions on Nigeria, the sanctions on Nigeria are modified at different times. Even if it is arguable, some improvements are recorded overtimes. Yet, the country is still struggling with the effects of the sanctions which were particularly harsher at their earlier times. Even if they are flexible and targeted than economic sanctions on Nigeria, they do not bar the regular people from injury. It is been difficult to precisely target those individuals who are responsible for the violations. As a result, the effects of the sanctions have been affecting the general populace even if they are not a total trade embargo as that of economic sanctions. Those targeted individuals are owners of large companies, business men and officials. Disrupting the businesses of such individuals could mean disrupting the employees of the companies, increasing the number of unemployed people, reducing the exports of the country, reducing the foreign earnings, discouraging the flow of new investments to the country and on the other hand it could mean forcing the closure of the existing ones, encouraging illicit trade activities, encouraging money laundering, and hence inflation. Thus, keeping the innocents from the effects of these sanctions is difficult since they are dependent on those individuals in one way or another. Moreover, the Suspension and reduction of credits and development assistances have an immediate impact on the ordinary people than on the elites. If the targeted elites are not affected or otherwise if they are benefited from the sanctions they may not concede. Therefore, sanctions whether targeted or not have negative effects on the population particularly on the ordinary people.

5.4 Recommendation

The efforts of the world countries to respond to security threats should be encouraged. However, their efforts are not always successful in minimizing sufferings. Particularly, sanctions are becoming the frequently used but failed foreign policy tools. Under this section, some ways to make sanctions more effective and options to the sanctions are recommended. As Nigeria were struggling with the remains of the colonial period, the sanctioning states should have considered other positive ways of impacting the country. Thus, diplomatically solving the problem could be an option. Engaging more to help the building of democracy and democratic institutions is harmless option than suspending the development assistances and stopping or minimizing the contacts between countries. If the donors think the governments of the sanctioned countries are using the assistances and loans from the IFIs or from other donors to oppress their people then channeling the aid through local or international NGOs could be an option than withholding the money intended to help the helpless citizens. Rather than sanctioning the regime in the name of promoting human and democratic rights, it is advantageous to build peopleโ€™s awareness on human rights and democracy through different civil societies. This could make the people tasked in promoting as well as protecting their human and democratic rights. If the use of sanctions is must, the use of threats should precede the actual imposition of the sanctions. Even if the threats may fail, the senders can morally justify their action (actual imposition) that comes after they consider every other possible option. It is also better if the sanctions are authorized by the UN to avoid the problem of legitimacy and if the sanctions should gain multilateral support. Moreover, the problem of inconsistencies in responding to crisis should be avoided as much as possible. Senders should avoid double standards in order to be credible. It is encouraged for senders to apply people centered human security approach even if it may harm their short term and middle term interests. Doing so will pay them finally (in the long term).

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