By Kelvin Kasiwulaya

In dealing with a man who thinks you are a fool, it is wise sometimes to remind him that you know what he knows, but have chosen to appear foolish for the sake of peace-Chinua Achebe-

Zimbabweans find themselves in the crucible of confusion when the Europeans and the Americans tell them ‘Economic sanctions are a means of arm-twisting their government to respect Human Rights’ but in all logic and sense, these sanctions are a direct violation of Human Rights.

To do justice to the notion that “Economic sanctions are a direct violation of human rights”,one has to summarise the principle tenets of human rights and then try to find the logic of sanctions in protecting those rights.

Here is a summary of the principle tenets of Human rights:

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, proclaimed by the General Assembly in 1948, sets out basic rights and freedoms to which all women and men are entitled — among them the right to life, liberty and nationality; to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; the right to work and to be educated; the right to food and housing; and the right to take part in government

Economic sanctions suppresses or exclude national economies from participating in the global trade system, where states trade with each other to increase their relative gains. However, the application of sanctions directly threatens the well-being of poor people in the sanction receiving country.

When a country’s economy crumbles the right to work and to be educated; the right to food and housing are all thrown into the historical dustbin.

The main aim of sanctions is to force a halt to the actions of unscrupulous leaders and governments, who are deemed to have flouted international laws, or are a risk to global peace and security. Arguably, whether sanctions are selective or comprehensive, the effects of such actions usually do not deter the political elite of a country because in most cases, the elite have the means to survive an economic meltdown but the common man will always suffer.

Then one asks the question that if the economic sanctions do no dent the political elite of a country, why punish the poor who are the most vulnerable to economic shocks caused by economic sanctions?

Economic sanctions usually punish the wrong people who are powerless or voiceless in the face of their unscrupulous leaders or governments.

Human rights are a contested concept but the Universal Declaration of 1948 argues that all human beings are to be treated fairly, without discriminating them on the grounds of race, nationality, sexual orientation or gender.

The application of economic sanctions targets certain nationalities who are bundled under one umbrella over the mistakes of unscrupulous leaders who have the wealth to survive a closed economy. To generalise a group of people together can be seen as a violation of human rights because most citizens of the aggrieved country are innocent of their leaders’ policies towards other states.(Mkotama-Kateya -Kaunda) —