Our Work

Targeted Human Rights Sanctions 

Advocating for new accountability tools

Ahlone ports, Yangon Myanmar

Rohingya refugees crossing from Myanmar into Bangladesh. © Adam Dean/Pano 

There are times when the criminal justice process may be unattainable, unfeasible or too slow to act, and perpetrators of grave crimes spend years on the run without suffering any consequences for their crimes. Other tools are therefore needed to step up to the plate – the words of Geoffrey Robertson QC. The Australian Centre for International Justice is working with others to introduce a targeted human rights sanctions regime in Australia. In February 2020, we made a submission to a Parliamentary Inquiry on whether Australia should introduce, Magnitsky style, human rights targeted sanctions laws.

The introduction of a new Australian human rights sanctions regime represents a unique opportunity for Australia to protect and promote human rights globally, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, by targeting human rights abusers and corrupt actors, as well as promoting accountability. We believe it would strengthen Australia’s capacity to respond to human rights violations globally and target those persons and entities involved in acts of significant corruption and severe breaches of human rights. ​

The Australian Centre for International Justice recommends that any sanctions determination process must ensure that the criminal prosecution of perpetrators of serious human rights violations that amount to international crimes, should be Australia’s primary objective to combating impunity for serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, but in circumstances where prosecution it is not likely, targeted sanctions can be a powerful tool to hold perpetrators accountable.

In March 2020, the Australian Centre for International Justice was invited to provide evidence to the Committee at a hearing. The Committee heard evidence throughout the year from impacted diaspora communities, academics and high-profile lawyers and advocates from around the world, including Geoffrey Robertson QC. Our recommendations included: that a sanctions determination process ensures contribution of civil society and NGOs; and that an independent committee be established to provide recommendations, monitoring and guidance, among others, were accepted by the Parliamentary Committee in its report released in November 2020. The Australian Centre for International Justice will continue to engage with the process when a draft bill is introduced in Federal Parliament in 2021.

Ahlone ports, Yangon Myanmar
Tamil women protesting enforced disappearances, in Colombo, Sri Lanka © Eranga Jayawardena/AP Photo

Latest on Targeted Human Rights Sanctions

Submission: Australian human rights sanctions regime

The Australian Centre for International Justice (ACIJ) has recommended that the Australian Government introduce a new human rights targeted sanctions regime. The submission was made to the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade...

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