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Criminality, corruption and impunity: should Australia join the global Magnitsky movement?

An inquiry into targeted sanctions to address human rights abuses
Corruption Political corruption Human rights Legislation Australia

On 3 December 2019, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator the Hon Marise Payne, asked the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade to inquire into and report on the use by Australia of targeted sanctions to address gross human rights abuses.

The Human Rights Sub-committee has watched with interest recent developments in the practice of human rights related sanctions by other Western democracies, in particular the adoption of so-called Magnitsky laws designed to allow the application of targeted sanctions against individuals identified as responsible for serious human rights violations and/or significant corruption. Modelled on or else inspired by United States legislation, these laws seek to make those responsible for human rights violations and corruption accountable by imposing restrictive measures including entry bans and financial sanctions including asset freezing.

Report overview:

  • Chapter 2 discusses Australia’s current international sanctions regimes, and examines the evidence on the fitness for purpose of these regimes for enforcing sanctions against human rights abusers.
  • Chapter 3 addresses the global Magnitsky legislation landscape, looking into the history of the United States targeted sanctions legislation, including the background of Sergei Magnitsky. It also examines various other jurisdictions’ Magnitsky-style Acts, and identifies alternative methods of sanctioning human rights abusers used by other states or international organisations. This chapter takes an in-depth look at aspects of the US, Canadian and UK legislation.
  • Chapter 4 describes the concerns and risks relating to potential legislation and its implementation, and the safeguards and protections that were identified as ways of minimising concerns. This chapter also provides an overview of evidence received from witnesses and submitters who oppose the introduction of targeted sanctions.
  • Chapter 5 identifies features the Sub-committee believes that a new Magnitsky-style regime should incorporate.
  • Chapter 6 discusses a document presented to the Sub-committee by Mr Geoffrey Robertson AO QC, which should serve as a valuable catalyst for the development of legislation to establish a new Australian Targeted Sanctions Regime.
  • Chapter 7 outlines principles that the Sub-committee considers should be adopted to guide the drafting of the new Australian targeted sanctions legislation and includes the report recommendations.
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