Australia Sanctions Regime To Target Corruption and Human Rights Violations

Compliance Officers may soon add the Australia Sanctions Regime to their compliance toolkit. Starting from next year individuals who commit serious human rights abuses and corruption might be banned from entering Australia and have their assets seized under new laws to be introduced to federal Parliament.

A bipartisan parliamentary inquiry will recommend the Australian government enact laws similar to the US Magnitsky Act that would give it the power to impose visa and property-related sanctions on human rights and grand corruption offenders.

US Magnitsky sanctions are a formidable US foreign policy tool. They authorize the US president to impose economic sanctions on human rights abusers and corrupt government officials anywhere in the world, bypassing all local laws and local authorities; and unlike the FCPA and US AML laws, they require zero US jurisdictional nexus.

Australia passing new laws based on the US Magnitsky Act will likely result in the biggest addition to Australia’s human rights laws in decades. The new laws will be a dramatic change from Australia’s current sanctions regime – a United Nations-enforced sanctions and autonomous sanctions regime- which Human Rights Watch qualified as “opaque, ad hoc, and does not require the government to examine human rights concerns”.

The recommendations proposed by Australia go much further than the UK version of the laws (enacted earlier this year) and the EU version (enacted today) which only target individuals for human rights abuses and do not extend to grand corruption (much to the dismay of anticorruption practioners)

The sanction legislation in the US, Canada, and the Baltic states do currently target grand corruption.

It will be interesting to follow whether Australia enacts this new regime, and how it enforces it.


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