“A clear breach of international law”

Answer to questions of Current Concerns (28 July 2017)

by Professor Dr phil Dr h.c. Dr h.c. Hans Köchler*

The problem is not new. The United States has repeatedly imposed unilateral sanctions against “unruly” states without respecting the rights of third parties. This has been the case with US sanctions practice, over several decades, concerning Cuba and Iran. (See the publication of the International Progress Organization, “Economic Sanctions and Development”, Vienna, 1997. www.i-p-o.org/sanctpap.htm)
It does not require further explanation why bilateral sanctions cannot be applied extraterritorially. A state imposing penalties on another state is not authorized to prohibit, or put conditions on, economic cooperation of third parties with the sanctioned state. In the case in question, this also applies to European companies and individuals in their business relations with Russia.
It will be a clear breach of international law should the law be enacted as adopted by the House of Representatives. The states affected by it should not hesitate to oppose this arrogation of power. This will also be a credibility test for the European Union.
In situations in which a world power puts itself above the law, pursuing the legal avenue and resorting to arbitration – e.g. within the framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO) – will not be effective. If nothing can be achieved by way of negotation, the skills of realpolitik, including a country’s willingness to use methods of retorsion, will be much more promising.    •

*    Hans Köchler is President of the International Progress Organization (IPO), a non-governmental organization in consultative status with the United Nations; he was nominated as International Observer of the “Lockerbie Trial” by the then Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan.