National Security

Human rights sanctions move a step closer

December 1, 2021

Dominic Giannini - The Canberra Times - Wednesday 1 December 2021

Horrific details of torture have been aired in the Senate as justification for why new targeted sanctions for human rights abusers are needed in Australia.

Australia is one step closer to being able to slap sanctions on human rights abusers and "the dregs of humanity" after the upper house passed Magnitsky-style sanctions on Wednesday.

The laws - named after a Russian whistleblower who died in a Moscow jail after accusing Russian officials of tax fraud - would allow the government to target individuals who conduct egregious acts of international concern.

Labor senator Kimberley Kitching said the new powers were needed to punish human rights abusers and hold criminals to account.

"In a modern age of regimes run by the dregs of humanity (who) torture and jail and murder their own citizens ... if you believe in the dignity of human beings you can't allow such evil to go on unchallenged," she said.

"If you believe in the beauty of human life then every person who lives under such regimes who cannot stand in the light ... then you understand why Magnitsky legislation is necessary."

Labor foreign affairs spokesperson senator Penny Wong said the sanctions were needed to enforce human rights and international law by depriving criminals and abusers of their wealth and ability to travel.

"Magnitsky sanctions will ensure that those responsible cannot seek safe haven for themselves or for their assets in Australia," she said.

Liberal senator James Paterson said he wanted to see the sanctions regime expanded worldwide so human rights abusers and corrupt foreign officials had nowhere to hide.

"No longer will (they) be able to comfort themselves with the idea that even if they were sanctioned by our partners, Australia could be a safe haven for their ill-gotten gains or a refuge for them to flee to," he said.

Senator Paterson said he wanted other countries to adopt Australia's inclusion of cyber crimes within the sanctions regime.

The Greens supported the bill but wanted more transparency around how the laws were applied and to broaden who could make referrals to the minister.

Senator Janet Rice used her speech to detail counts of torture in countries like Myanmar as she justified the need for action.

"Targeted sanctions are a good step, and an important step, in responding to those human rights abuses."

The laws will be reviewed by a joint parliamentary committee after three years.

Recent News

All Posts