Embargoes and sanctions are tools of foreign policy. They can induce a decline in economic activity in addition to reducing imports and untoward health effects can supervene, especially among older persons and those with chronic illnesses. Often, violations of the rights of life, health, social services, and protection of human dignity occur among innocent civilians in embargoed nations. This paper examines the effects of embargoes and sanctions against several nations, and calls for studies to determine ways in which economic warfare might be guided by the rule of humanitarian international law, to reduce the effects on civilians. It suggests that the ability to trade in exempted goods and services should be improved, perhaps by establishing uniform criteria and definitions for exemptions, operational criteria under which sanctions committees might function, and methods for monitoring the impact of sanctions on civilian populations in targeted states, particularly with regard to water purity, food availability, and infectious-disease control. Prospective studies are advocated, to generate the data needed to provide better information and monitoring capacity than presently exists.