Blockades: Their Status under International law, Effectiveness and Impact

GMA 400 - Senior Seminar Research

Since the beginning of naval warfare, navies have used the military action of a blockade to deny the enemy the shipment of vital supplies needed to fight. The consequences of such blockades have almost always resulted in the suffering of the civilian population the blockade is over due to the nature of the blockade itself to deny any ship access to a port or territory even if they are simply transporting food or medical supplies. Today blockades are used sparsely in most conflicts yet are still used and are seen as a viable military strategy even with the humanitarian impact that almost always corresponds with the operation. The law of blockades which has evolved over the last 400 years focused more on the economic impact of blockades on states rather than the suffering of the civilian population effected. The law of blockade today has therefore been influenced by this thinking with the many rules which must be followed having to do with the convenience of states with humanitarian responsibilities taking precedent after World War 2. International humanitarian law on the other hand condemns blockades completely. In the case studies presented, the blockades in operation today and in the not so distant past have been due to security concerns of a state with these concerns being all too real with another entity attempting to transport weapons to a group that could cause potential harm on a blockading state’s citizens. They have also been initiated when no other serious power in the region can challenge the blockade militarily. A blockade, compared to other potential options, does always accomplish the goal of stopping the armament of an enemy group and therefore has an impact on the reduction of a conflict. This reality, however, does not give a belligerent state the right to evade the humanitarian responsibilities that correspond with implementing a blockade.