Better or worse? the effect of economic sanctions on human rights *


Does economic coercion increase or decrease government respect for human rights in countries targeted with economic sanctions? If economic sanctions weaken the target regime's coercive capacity, human rights violations by the government should be less likely. If, on the contrary, sanctions fail to attenuate the coercive capacity of the target elites and create more economic difficulties and political violence among ordinary citizens, the government will likely commit more human rights violations. Focusing on competing views of why sanctions might improve or deteriorate human rights conditions, this article offers an empirical examination of the effect sanctions have on the physical integrity rights of citizens in target countries. Utilizing time-series, cross-national data for the period 1981ĝ€"2000, the findings suggest that economic sanctions worsen government respect for physical integrity rights, including freedom from disappearances, extra-judicial killings, torture, and political imprisonment. The results also show that extensive sanctions are more detrimental to human rights than partial/selective sanctions. Economic coercion remains a counterproductive policy tool, even when sanctions are specifically imposed with the goal of improving human rights. Finally, multilateral sanctions have a greater overall negative impact on human rights than unilateral sanctions. © 2009 Journal of Peace Research.

Publication Title

Journal of Peace Research