Australia’s slow adoption of laws that would allow the targeted sanctioning of human rights abusers has been branded “humiliating” by a prominent activist.
Australia is facing renewed pressure to introduce the measures – already adopted by some of its closest global allies – as concerns mount about human rights violations in the region.
There are fears that, without such laws, Australia is becoming out of step with allies who appear increasingly willing to single out perpetrators.
For example, the US, Britain, Canada and European Union last month launched coordinated sanctions against Chinese officials alleged to be involved in the mass internment of ethnic-minority Uighurs.
Myanmar’s violent military coup is another example where Australia has come under pressure to take a tougher stance.
Bill Browder is a prominent financier and political activist who spearheaded the campaign for the first Magnitsky laws in the US.
He said it was high time the Australian government took a tougher stance against individuals and entities responsible for human rights violations.
“The government needs now to get off its backside and do something about it,” Mr Browder told SBS News.
“Otherwise its humiliating and looks stupid for Australia not to participate with the rest of the civilised world in these types of joint sanctioning exercises.”
The so-called “Magnistky laws” are broad laws that allow governments to sanction individuals or entities on human rights grounds. Australia does not currently have its own Magnitsky laws, in contrast to the US, UK, Canada and European Union.
The Magnitsky laws were named after Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who uncovered $230 million worth of tax fraud committed by Russian government officials in 2008.
After Mr Magnitsky testified against the officials he was imprisoned, allegedly tortured and later died in jail. SBS News