Global Policy Forum

U.N. Condemns Unilateral Economic Sanctions


InterPress Service

April 10, 1998
Geneva - The U.N. Human Rights Commission voted today against unilateral coercive measures imposed on other countries, like the U.S. economic embargos against Cuba, Libya and Iran. The Commission also expressed its concern over the effects of structural adjustment programs on human rights. The Non-Aligned Movement sponsored the resolution on human rights and unilateral coercive measures that was approved by the 53-member Commission.

The resolution is mainly linked to two U.S. laws: the Helms-Burton act, which stiffened the blockade of Cuba, and the D'Amato law, which blocks trade with Libya and Iran. The text, approved by 37 votes in favor, seven against and eight abstentions, urges states not to adopt unilateral measures that run counter to international law or the U.N. charter. The resolution especially alludes to coercive measures with extraterritorial effects, like the Helms-Burton law, which provides for legal proceedings against citizens from third party nations who do business with Cuba.

The Commission rejected the employment of such measures as instruments of political or economic pressure against any nation, especially developing countries, due to their negative effects on broad sectors of the population. Colombian ambassador Gustavo Castro, speaking in the name of the Non-Aligned Movement plus China, pointed out that "moral authorities" like Pope John Paul II "reprove that practice due to the suffering it causes the civilian population." No country can argue "supposed national interests as a pretext for violating the sovereignty of other states," he maintained, in an allusion to U.S. attempts to justify its unilateral economic sanctions against Cuba, Iran and Libya. U.S. Ambassador Nancy Rubin replied that nations had the right to decide with which countries, and under what conditions, they would do business. Canada, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, Luxemborg, South Korea and the United States voted against the resolution, while Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Poland and the Ukraine abstained. Cuban diplomat Aymee Hernandez Quesada said the vote was another sign of the deaf ear that the United States turned to the Commission's requests, as well as a demonstration of developing countries' support for the resolution.


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