The limits of economic sanctions under international humanitarian law : the case of the Congo
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Texas international law journal, Vol. 48, issue 1, 2012, p. 103-123
Today, economic sanctions are frequently used as a “unilateral technique in international politics, though not necessarily explicitly.” The most recent example of this technique is Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act (“Section 1502”). Section 1502 was created to address the humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (“DR Congo”). It requires public companies to disclose whether certain minerals in their supply chain originate from the DR Congo or its neighboring countries. Section 1502 has been widely criticized for failing to address the root causes of conflict in the DR Congo and, instead, creating a de facto embargo on a minerals trade that hundreds of thousands of civilians rely on for their livelihoods. In light of these unintended consequences, this Note poses the question: How should we think about influence strategies like economic sanctions that are likely to directly or indirectly produce significant collateral damage? This Note provides a general discussion of international humanitarian law (“IHL”) and how it can and should be applied to economic sanctions specifically. It that because economic instruments like Section 1502 are coercive in nature, they should be assessed under an IHL framework. Left unregulated, sanctions programs will continue to map new patterns of inequality and violence in target countries.