Unknown “sanctions war” and the possibilities of international justice

Available in Russian

Price 150 Rub.

Author: Olga Kadysheva

DOI: 10.21128/2226-2059-2022-4-95-111

Keywords: Qatar; sanctions; unilateral restrictive measures; international courts; counter measures


The article examines the judicial strategy chosen and successfully implemented by Qatar for challenging in international courts the unilateral sanctions imposed against it by a group of countries. It notes that instead of one dispute over Qatar’s implementation of the Riyadh Agreements, everything was “sliced” into smaller disputes over various sectoral international agreements, which seems to be the only correct approach, given the current state of international law and international justice. However, this approach also has quite obvious risks because of the possibility of various conflicting judgments. Qatar has used international court proceedings as a means of putting pressure on States that have imposed restrictions against it in order to force them to lift their restrictions. This strategy has paid off. At the same time, Qatar’s judicial “sanctions” war has highlighted in a new way some of the nuances and problems of both specific courts and international justice in general. First of all, the departure of the International Court of Justice from its earlier practice of adhering to the positions and interpretations made by human rights bodies looks unusual and inexplicable. This has caused criticism from representatives of the academic community, who reproached the Court for missing an excellent opportunity to once again consider the issue of its interaction with human rights treaty bodies, leaving open the question of who should play the leading role in interpretation of the Convention. Additionally, it should be noted that all the international judicial bodies involved in the legal proceedings initiated by Qatar evaded an assessment of the underlying dispute – whether Qatar actually violated the Riyadh Agreements and whether the actions of States that imposed sanctions were legitimate and proportionate as countermeasures under modern international law on a State’s responsibility. Of course, Qatar could be blamed for forum shopping but, strictly speaking, this strategy is not prohibited by international law. Nevertheless, Qatar’s experience in applying to various international courts and tribunals encourages and will encourage other States to resort to international law to resolve conflicts.

About the author: Olga Kadysheva – Candidate of Sciences (Ph.D.) in Law, Associate Professor, Department of International Law, Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Kadysheva O. (2022) Neizvestnaya “sanktsionnaya voyna” i vozmozhnosti mezhdunarodnogo pravosudiya [Unknown “sanctions war” and the possibilities of international justice]. Mezhdunarodnoe pravosudie, vol. 12, no. 4, pp. 95–111. (In Russian).


Azaria D. (2022) Тrade Countermeasures for Breaches of International Law Outside the WTO. International and Comparative Law Quarterly, vol. 71, no. 2, pp. 389–423.

Bakhin S.V., Eryomenko I.Yu. (2017) Odnostoronnie ekonomicheskie “sanktsii” i mezhdunarodnoe pravo [Unilateral economic “sanctions” and international law]. Zakon, no. 1, pp. 162–175. (In Russian).

Bogdanova I. (2021) Targeted Economic Sanctions and WTO Law: Examining the Adequacy of the National Security Exception. Legal Issues of Economic Integration, vol. 48, no. 2, pp. 171–200.

Boklan D., Shaubert M. (2019) Rossiya – Mery, svyazannye s tranzitom gruzov: istoricheskiy doklad Treteyskoy gruppy Organa po razresheniyu sporov VTO [Russian Federation – Measures concerning traffic in transit case: WTO Dispute Settlement Body Panel’s historic report]. Mezhdunarodnoe pravosudie, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 20–30. (In Russian).

Hofer A. (2017) The Developed/Developing Divide on Unilateral Coercive Measures: Legitimate Enforcement or Illegitimate Intervention. Chinese Journal of International Law, vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 175–214.

Hovell D. (2019) Unfinished Business of International Law: The Questionable Legality of Autonomous Sanctions. AJIL Unbound, vol. 113, pp. 140–145.

Ispolinov A.S. (2022) Sila i slabost’ universal’nykh dogovorov o zashchite prav cheloveka [Strength and weakness of universal human rights treaties]. Rossiyskiy yuridicheskiy zhurnal, no. 3, pp. 26–43. (In Russian).

Lapa V. (2020) The WTO Panel Report in Russia – Traffic in Transit: Cutting the Gordian Knot of the GATT Security Exception? Questions of International Law, Zoom-In, vol. 69, pp. 5–27.

Magi L. (2020) The Effect of the WTO Dispute Settlement Crisis on the Development of Case Law on National Security Exceptions: A Critical Scenario. Questions of International Law, Zoom-In, vol. 69, pp. 29–47.

Nephew R. (2020) The Qatari Sanctions Episode: Crisis, Response, and Lessons Learned. Available at: https://www.energypolicy.columbia.edu/sites/default/files/file-uploads/QatariSanctions_CGEP_Report_102220.pdf (accessed: 11.11.2022).

Pan K. (2022) Difference between the ICJ and the CERD Committee: A Comment on the Application of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Qatar v. United Arab Emirates) Case. Chinese Journal of International Law, vol. 21, no. 1, pp. 195–211.

Rachkov I. (2014) Ekonomicheskie sanktsii s tochki zreniya prava GATT/VTO [Economic sanctions from the GATT/WTO standpoint]. Mezhdunarodnoe pravosudie, vol. 4, no. 3, pp. 91–113. (In Russian).

Ronzitti N. (2016) Sanctions as Instruments of Coercive Diplomacy. In: Ronzitti N. (ed.) Coercive Diplomacy, Sanctions and International Law, Boston, MA; Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, pр.1–32.

Rose C. (2021). Appeal Relating to the Jurisdiction of the ICAO Council. American Journal of International Law, vol. 115, no. 2, pp. 301–308.

Saed Aldien A. (2020) Qatar: A New Beginning for International Law in the Middle East. New York University Journal of International Law and Politics, vol. 52, no. 2, pp. 685–694.

Smbatyаn A.S. (2017) Tolkovanie i primenenie pravil Vsemirnoy torgovoy organizatsii [Interpretation and application of the rules of the World Trade Organization], Moscow: Norma: Infra-M. (In Russian).