While intended as a nonviolent foreign policy alternative to military intervention, sanctions have often worsened humanitarian and human rights conditions in the target country. This article examines the relationship between economic sanctions and state-sponsored repression of human rights. Drawing on both the public choice and institutional constraints literature, I argue that the imposition of economic sanctions negatively impacts human rights conditions in the target state by encouraging incumbents to increase repression. Specifically, sanctions threaten the stability of target incumbents, leading them to augment their level of repression in an effort to stabilize the regime, protect core supporters, minimize the threat posed by potential challengers, and suppress popular dissent. The empirical results support this theory. These findings provide further evidence that sanctions impose political, social, and physical hardship on civilian populations. They also underscore a need for improvements in current strategies and mechanisms by which states pursue foreign-policy goals and the international community enforces international law and stability.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science
- Political Science and International Relations