The United States has employed targeted sanctions—economic and travel restrictions imposed directly on natural and legal persons—in a wide range of policy areas in the past two decades. This includes counterterrorism, nonproliferation, and cyber, as well as sanctions regimes aimed at changing the behavior of various governments. A substantial literature has considered the compatibility with international human rights law of the targeted sanctions practices of other actors, particularly the UN Security Council and the European Union. But relatively few scholars have examined U.S. targeted sanctions practices from that perspective. This essay argues that in principle, current U.S. designation practices can be reconciled with international standards. However, a more robust conclusion about the practices’ compatibility with international human rights law would require more information on the application of designation procedures in individual cases.
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