Economic Sanctions Human Rights Pakistan Russia Turkey United Nations


June 11, 2021

When sanctions violate human rights

By Peter Piatetsky and Julian Vasilkoski

Castellum.AI has developed a methodology to determine whether, and how, sanctions from particular countries violate human rights, designating Russia, Pakistan, and Turkey in that order as the biggest violators. Castellum.AI’s methodology relies on how sanctions of different countries hold up with a number of criteria, the four most important being: clear standards for designations; provisions of evidence for designations; whether or not clear legal pathways exist to challenge designations; and whether procedures exist for unblocking incorrectly frozen funds.

Our analysis found that unilateral sanctions do not equate to human rights abuse. What does lead to human rights abuse are sanctions processes with little or no transparency in the listing rationale and process.

Despite the United States being one of the countries with the most number of unilateral sanctions, this does not violate human rights given that transparent processes in which to appeal these listings exist and the motivations and reasoning behind the US’ sanctions are readily available; the same cannot be said of Russia, Pakistan, or Turkey, all of whom have unclear processes and reasons, whether intentionally or due to a lack of organization. The Office of Foreign Affairs in the US, the department responsible for sanctions administration, provides more guidance than both the EU and UN, explaining the rationale behind its actions and its implementation, publishing its work and holding press conferences. Meanwhile, China has recently passed legislation allowing it to react to foreign sanctions with its own, however, it only retains about one hundred sanctions, mostly political rather than economic in nature, and is not considered a significant program.

Russia, the United States, and Pakistan (in this order) have the world’s largest sanctions programs, and all three are unilateral. Although Russia has the most designees, it has almost no overlap with other countries except its neighbors Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan.

In terms of methodology, Castellum.AI looked only at financial sanctions, not travel bans or export controls, and relied on their own database, which relies on their own database, consisting of over six hundred watchlists covering two hundred countries and six categories (sanctions, export controls, law enforcement most wanted, contract debarment, politically exposed persons, and elevated risk).

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