Australian Parliament Approves Magnitsky-style Sanctions Law

The legislation will allow Australia to address gross human rights violations, serious corruption, malicious cyber activity, among other themes.

On 2 December, Australia’s Parliament passed legislation to expand the country’s autonomous sanctions laws to enable the establishment of Magnitsky-style and other thematic sanctions.

The government announced plans to reform and modernise Australia’s autonomous sanctions laws in August, seeking to address themes such as gross human rights violations and serious corruption.

The Autonomous Sanctions (Magnitsky-style and Other Thematic Sanctions) Amendment Bill 2021 was passed on the last sitting day of the year – just ten days after it was introduced to Parliament.

To date, Australia’s autonomous sanctions have been administered primarily via country-based sanctions regimes. The legislation introduces new thematic sanctions which Australia can use to address:

  • the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction
  • threats to international peace and security
  • malicious cyber activity
  • serious violations or serious abuses of human rights
  • activities undermining good governance or the rule of law, including serious corruption
  • serious violations of international humanitarian law (added in a later revision)
  • Australian governments will also be able to establish further thematic sanctions regulations in the future.

“The reforms will ensure Australia can take timely action, including with like-minded partners where it is in our national interest, to impose costs on, influence, and deter those responsible for egregious situations of international concern,” Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said in a statement.

“An increasing number of similarly attractive economies have joined the ‘Magnitsky movement’. This bill […] is timely for Australia to ensure that we do not become an isolated, attractive safe haven for such people and entities, and their illegal gains.”

The legislative model is named after Russian national Sergei Magnitsky, a tax advisor and whistleblower who died in a Russian prison in November 2009 after he was denied medical treatment.

The US, Canada, the EU and the UK have all enacted Magnitsky-style laws.

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