Britain's trade bans can kill, say MPsLucy Ward and Richard Norton-Taylor
Friday February 11, 2000
Economic sanctions applied to oppressive regimes by the UK can cause as much humanitarian damage as outright war, a cross-party committee of MPs said yesterday.
In a forthright attack on Britain's policy over countries including Iraq and the Yugoslav Republic, the commons international development committee said sanctions too often hurt the innocent and failed to harm the governments they were aimed at.
The report, the Future of Sanctions, concludes that regional sanctions - targeted on particular areas of individual countries - have resulted in "catastrophic humanitarian consequences", particularly in Burundi and Sierra Leone.
"Sanctions, unless carefully targeted, have the capacity to kill more children than armed warfare," the report says.
The committee notes that even those in favour of sanctions against Iraq "accept that children, the ill, the vulnerable in Iraqi society are suffering".
The study, whose findings were largely backed by aid organisations but immediately challenged by the government, proposes a new approach to make sanctions "smarter" and more effective.
It argues that the international community should target the assets of specific groups or individuals responsible for breaches of international law, as an alternative to blanket measures which compounded suffering among ordinary people.
The report recommends the establishment in the UK of an office of foreign assets control to track funds connected to the leaders of oppressive regimes. It calls for greater efforts to enforce arms embargoes and improved monitoring of the impact of sanctions.
Foreign office minister Peter Hain defended the government's use of sanctions. He told BBC Radio 4's World at One: "Iraq's threat to the wider world has been contained for over 10 years now, and that is a significant achievement."