Document Type



Harvard National Security Journal




Economic and trade sanctions are typically understood as the exclusive province of governments and intergovernmental organizations. Private parties have, however, long played a role in sanctions regimes. For example, private plaintiffs holding unsatisfied, terrorism-related civil judgments have used various U.S. federal statutes to enforce those judgments against assets blocked by U.S. sanctions. Most recently, plaintiffs with judgments against the Taliban have used some of those federal laws to execute against the financial assets of Afghanistan’s central bank. These and other efforts to enforce terrorism-related civil judgments are more than just attempts to collect on outstanding damages awards. Rather, they allow private parties to utilize U.S. sanctions to further their own parochial, monetary goals. Through this involvement in the U.S. sanctions system, private plaintiffs are able to influence and even expand the scope and reach of U.S. sanctions while also reinforcing some of their most troubling consequences. Situating these private judgment enforcement suits within a broader framework of private involvement in sanctions, this Article demonstrates how private actors are participating in U.S. sanctions in ways that further their own personal interests, while also bolstering U.S. government policies that undermine civil liberties, target black and brown communities, and deplete the wealth of countries impacted by sanctions.