The Australian government should examine the use of targeted sanctions to address human rights abuses abroad, especially against LGBTQI people. That is the submission made by the Victorian Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby (VGLRL) to the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade. VGLRL has sought changes in the law that would make such sanctions possible.
“The Lobby supports the use of targeted sanctions to address human rights abuses, as they are an effective tool to combat those that persecute LGBT people. As outlined in our submission, we are calling on the Australian Government to sanction human rights abusers abroad,” Nevena Spirovska, Co-Convener, Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, told Star Observer.
The United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada have laws in place to sanction individuals and organisations who are deemed as human rights violators. In the past, Australia has sanctioned anti-LGBTQI law-maker Yelena Mizulina and Ramzan Kadyrov, the President of the Republic of Chechnya.
However, at present Australia does not have specific legislation that can be used to apply sanctions explicitly on those who violate human rights. In February 2020, Human Rights Watch had asked the Australian government to enact a new law that would allow such sanctions.
“Australia’s current sanctions law allows the government to impose targeted sanctions for a broad range of reasons, but the process is complicated, ad hoc, opaque, and difficult to navigate,” HRW had said in a submission to the Parliament’s human rights sub-committee.
HRW cited the examples of the US which adopted the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act in 2016, and similar laws in Canada and the United Kingdom. The European Union too has got on board and is developing a global EU Human Rights Sanctions Regime.
“Telling rights violators in other countries that they can’t travel to Australia or put their money in Australian banks can have a real impact,” Elaine Pearson, HRW Australia director had said in a statement.
According to VGLRL, the Australian government should consult non-governmental organisations that may have evidence to back autonomous sanctions. “One way to address this issue would be to amend section 10(2) of the Autonomous Sanctions Act 2 to provide that, in determining whether to impose sanctions, the Minister should consider information obtained by non-governmental organisations that monitor violations of human rights, similar to a provision in United States law,” said the Lobby,
VGLRL called on the Australian Government “to consider the use of targeted sanctions to address human rights abuses, particularly against LGBTQI people in Chechnya”.