The international community can use sanctions to change the behaviour of a country or regime, in cases where that country or regime is violating human rights, waging war or endangering international peace and security.

Types of sanctions

Sanctions vary by country and situation. Possible sanctions include:

  • an arms embargo (ban on weapons, protective attire, military vehicles, etc.);
  • an embargo on the import and/or export of certain goods, software and technology. For example, equipment needed to develop missiles or atomic weapons. Embargos can also cover goods that generate money for a country's leaders, like oil or timber;
  • an additional permit requirement for sensitive goods, software and technology, which could be used in arms programmes;
  • restrictions on loans and credit for certain people/companies;
  • freezing the assets of certain people/companies;
  • travel and visa restrictions (visa bans) for certain people.

Sanctions have been imposed on a number of countries in the past few years. You can learn more about sanctions on the EU website. This link will take you to an up-to-date overview, listing the countries to which sanctions apply and explaining the nature of those sanctions.

Overview of people and companies listed in sanctions regulations

Often, sanctions against a particular county entail measures against certain people and/or companies. The EU website contains an up-to-date list of organisations ('entities') and people subject to restrictions. The list also contains references to the specific regulations containing the restrictions.

Sanctions: origin and purpose

Sanctions can be imposed by the UN Security Council, the European Union (EU) and individual states. In practice, sanctions are usually first instituted by the Security Council and later adopted by the EU in the form of Council decisions and regulations. On occasion, however, the EU will impose sanctions on its own without any prior action on the part of the UN - for example, in connection with the situation in Syria. In certain cases, the Netherlands will institute sanctions, without any prior action by either the UN or the EU. In these cases, the target of the sanctions is often an individual connected with terrorism in the Netherlands.

The purpose of the sanctions is often:

  • to change undesirable behaviour (e.g. Syria);
  • to limit opportunities for undesirable behaviour (e.g. Iran, extensive restrictions on technology/knowledge in the nuclear sector);
  • to deter other countries from choosing an undesirable course of action.

More information

For more information about the implementation of sanctions, you can contact the Central Import and Export Office.