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A more recent case in point is the blockade of Germany after thecessation of World War I in order to coerce that country to stand down from itsopposition to certain leonine clauses of the Treaty of Versailles. Theunilateral coercive measure applied against Germany visited untold sufferingson the German population, whose basic rights were ignored.1 Infact, the founding fathers of the League of Nations considered coercivemeasures as the backbone of its policies for the maintenance of peace. That wasalready a progress on the past, when such measures and in particular blockadeswere a prelude to war or part of the stratagems of war itself.One could also mention the unilateral coercive measures applied atthe initiative of Western countries against the Soviet Union in 1949 — theCoordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls — and China in 1951 —the China Committee — and the entry of the Security Council into the fray ofsanctions, imposing them first on Southern Rhodesia in 1966 and then on SouthAfrica a decade later at the initiative of developing countries.

The impact ofthe latter on the enjoyment of human rights of the target population wasrelatively limited because the measures were circumvented by the sourcecountries themselves.Except for the cases of Southern Rhodesia and South Africa under apartheid, most recent unilateralcoercive measures before1975 were implemented in the context of the East-West ideologicalrivalry. Then came the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperationin Europe, which, in its principle VI, expressed the resolve of the signatoriesto put an end to autonomous policies of coercive measures.

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According to thatprinciple, the parties to the Treaty “will likewise in all circumstancesrefrain from any other act of … economic or other coercion designed tosubordinate to their own interest the exercise by another participating Stateof the rights inherent to sovereignty”. Experience thereafter did not live upto expectations as unilateral coercive measures were redeployed in thedirection of developing countries and then escalated again inter alia between the West and theRussian Federation as a result of tension on Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.Most current unilateral coercive measures have been imposed atgreat cost, in terms of the human rights of the poorest and most vulnerablegroups, by developed countries on developing countries. There are a fewexamples of the reverse situation, such as the Arab oil embargo of 1973 againstWestern States in response to the position the latter took during the 1973Arab-Israeli War.

There are also cases of developing countries imposingunilateral coercive measures on neighbouring States for short periods of time.                1               C.P. Vincent, The Politics of Hunger: The Allied Blockadeof Germany, 1915-1919 (Athens, Ohio, Ohio University Press, 1985).

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