Embargo Law & Legal Definition


An embargo is a government prohibition against the export or import of all or certain products to a particular country for economic or political reasons. Historically, embargoes and blockades have been used to advance the interests of various European nation states, particularly in the area of international trade during the ascendancy of those states under absolute monarchies. In the nineteenth century, with the rise of various shades of political liberalism, embargoes have been justified increasingly as retribution for the infringement of contracts or obligations (Pacta Sunt Servanda) under international law. And, in the present day, they have been justified as a means of discouraging the systematic violation by some nations of the civil and human rights of their own nationals.

One example of an embargo is the U.S. embargo against trade with Cuba. Critics of the embargo with Cuba argue that it has helped Fidel Castro to justify his repressive policies, all of which greatly restrict the freedoms of speech, movement and association of the Cuban people.