The Problem with Using Sanctions as Human Rights Accountability: The Case of US Sanctions in Response to Conflict in Ethiopia

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Abstract

In November 2021, the United States unveiled a flurry of sanctions in response to human rights and humanitarian law violations in the year-long armed conflict in northern Ethiopia. The conflict started in November 2020 between the Ethiopian Federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a political party that has been ruling the country for 27 years until it was overthrown through popular movement in 2018. Although a TPLF attack on Federal military bases located in Tigray region triggered the conflict, during the course of the war all parties in the conflict have been implicated in large scale violations of human rights and humanitarian law. The US sanctions – involving targeted assets freeze and travel ban (Executive Order 14046), defence export prohibition (under ITAR regime), expulsion from the AGOA preferential trade regime, and possible denial of access to international financing and loans (Senate Bill S.3075) – mainly target the Ethiopian government, while some of them also apply to the Eritrean government and the TPLF. In this piece I argue that the deployment of these sanctions undermines multilateral human rights investigations and reveals a deeper dilemma involved in adopting sanctions in response to human rights violations in general.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages4
Specialist publication Völkerrechtsblog
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jan 2022

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