Starvation as a Weapon: Legal Implications of the United Nations Food Blockade Against Iraq and Kuwait
30 Columbia Journal of Transnational Law 577 (1992)
The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in early August 1990 was a bold political move that sent shockwaves through the community of nations and triggered an international reaction which some have viewed as the dawn of a ‘New World Order.’ From the start, the United Nations (the “U.N.”) was at the center of the reaction against this illegal use of force, condemning the invasion in unmitigated terms the same day it occurred. The U.N. proved successful in channelling efforts which eventually resulted in the liberation of Kuwait.
My focus here is on the use of a food blockade by the U.N. Security Council against Iraq and occupied Kuwait. The use of starvation as a weapon is regulated by a number of international humanitarian norms, some conventional and others customary. In this article, I analyze the legal and factual background of the food blockade, and then assess its compliance with international humanitarian law. I conclude that the U.N., the members of the Security Council, and the countries that participated violated several mandatory humanitarian norms in enforcing the food blockade.
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