What are sanctions?

Sanctions are an instrument of a diplomatic or economic nature which seeks to bring about a change in activities or policies such as violations of international law or human rights, or policies that do not respect the rule of law or democratic principles.

Sanctions may target governments of third countries, or non-state entities, companies and individuals (such as terrorist groups and terrorists). They may comprise arms embargoes, other specific or general trade restrictions (import and export bans), financial restrictions, such as an asset freeze, restrictions on admission (visa or travel bans) or other measures, as appropriate. Sanctions targeted at a certain country can also have consequences for third countries or for their enterprises and companies.

Through the years, there has been an evolution from generic, so-called comprehensive sanctions to more specific sanctions. As a matter of fact, it had become obvious that e.g. general economic boycotts can have a negative effect on the living conditions of the general population. At the same time, these measures affect the instigators of the conflict in an insufficient way. Hence the development of so-called "smart" sanctions: measures aimed at influencing the behaviour of individual persons who are playing an important negative role in a conflict situation. For example: freezing these persons' bank assets or refusing them visa if they want to travel. Often, companies involved in illicit arms trafficking are targeted too.


Sanctions of the UN Security Council

EU sanctions

Sanctions in force in Belgium

Belgian authorities in charge of the implementation of the restrictive measures of the European Union

Sanctions regime against Iran

Sanctions regime against Russia