1. At a forum in UKM recently, Dr Chandra Muzaffar raised the matter of sanctions in international affairs and suggested that sanction is war by other means. Therefore it should be made a crime and that the campaign to make war a crime should include sanctions.2. I fully agree with Dr Muzaffar that sanction is a crime.
3. In the past, during the numerous wars of the European nations, one of the most effective weapons was the siege. This consisted of cutting off communication of a city with the outside through positioning soldiers all round the city so that the citizens would be starved to death or surrender.
4. The concept has been “upgraded” so that whole country could be cut off from communication and trade with other countries. The effect is to starve and deprive the people of food and medicine until the country surrenders. It is another way of killing people as in war.
5. We talk a lot about the rule of law. We know that for justice to be done everyone must be equal before the law. No one should be above the law.
6. But sanctions can only be effectively applied by the powerful against the weak. There is no way for a weak country to apply sanctions against a strong power, indeed against another weak country even.
7. Against a strong country even the whole world or the United Nations cannot apply sanctions. The strong country can just ignore sanctions. There is no equality before the law. And therefore there is no justice. The rule of law cannot be applied.
8. What is worse about sanctions is that it is not the only country under sanctions which will be deprived of their rights, other countries which have trade and even friendly relations with the sanctioned country will also suffer the loss of trade and relations. This is so because if a country continues to trade with the sanctioned country, the powerful country can punish the recalcitrant by cutting off trade, denying banking facilities etc. In effect the other countries have to suffer sanctions as well.
9. We talk about free trade. We talk about borderless world. We talk about human rights. But the big power or power can deprive weak countries of all their freedoms with impunity.
10. Truly sanction is war by other means. It is an expression of might being right. It is cruel and inhumane. It denies the claim of the big powers that they want to see nations uphold freedoms including. It negates their assertion that trade should be free.
11. Since sanction is war, it should be made as criminal as other forms of wars, conventional or otherwise.