Proposed Australian Magnitsky Laws Have ‘Teeth’: Diplomacy Expert

By Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng
August 9, 2021 Updated: August 10, 2021

Newly introduced Magnitsky laws that give the federal government the power to sanction overseas human rights violators will be powerful, effective, and quick, according to a diplomacy expert.

Joseph Siracusa, adjunct professor at Curtin University who teaches the history of international diplomacy, says Australia’s new laws have “teeth” and will be a deterrent against future human rights violations.

“It can identify somebody, it can freeze their assets in Melbourne or Sydney,” he told The Epoch Times.

“When you take people’s money and take the houses, they bought overseas including apartments and cars, and you extend it to the family or extended family—because you know they’re channelling the money to the kids—that’s a big deal because it’s telling people you can’t get away with it,” he said.

“It can really hurt people who hurt people.”

The comments from Siracusa come after Labor Senator Kimberley Kitching introduced the International Human Rights and Corruption (Magnitsky Sanctions) Bill 2021, which fellow Labor Senator Anne Urquhart moved on Aug. 3.

Epoch Times Photo
Labor Senator Kimberley Kitching in the Senate chamber at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, on June 15, 2020. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Kitching is a member of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), a coalition of legislators focused on coordinating the approach of democratic countries towards the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). It is comprised of over 100 politicians from 20 nations.

Two days later, Foreign Minister Marise Payne, a Liberal senator, released a statement indicating the government would back the introduction of such laws, a move championed by fellow Liberal and IPAC member James Paterson.

Magnitsky-style laws differ from sanctions because they target individuals rather than nations. Currently, the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and Canada have implemented and used their laws to sanction Chinese officials involved in the persecution of the Uyghur minority.

John Deller,  a committee member of the Falun Dafa Association of Australia, was also hopeful such laws could hinder the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China, which has been ongoing since 1999.

“A Magnitsky law is like turning a CCP approach back on itself. The CCP targets individuals in Western nations to influence and corrupt them by catering to human weaknesses such as fame, greed, and desire,” he told The Epoch Times. “A Magnitsky act will target CCP officials’ vulnerabilities to exposure of their crimes, fear of losing prestige, and loss of corrupt wealth and escape opportunities.”

Stop Forced Organ Harvesting
Falun Gong practitioners take part in a parade marking the 22nd year of the persecution of Falun Gong in China, in Brooklyn, N.Y., on July 18, 2021. (Chung I Ho/The Epoch Times)

Siracusa said that traditional sanctions—including restrictions on trade or diplomatic contact—involve a longer process, usually around six months.

“This (Magnitsky law) is overnight. This is very quick. You can tie someone up in knots in probably 72 hours with this legislation,” he said,

Siracusa also noted that the introduction of the Bill, and the government’s support, was likely a coordinated move to deflect Beijing’s attention away from the Morrison government.

“They probably settled this behind closed doors or in the corridors,” he said. “They would all have been informally coordinated on this.”

Australia-China relations have been on a downward spiral since April 2020 after Beijing cut off diplomatic contact and implemented a long-running economic coercion campaign against Australia.

The moves come following Australian Foreign Minister Payne’s calls for an investigation into the origins of COVID-19, a call that drew a sharp rebuke from Chinese Ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye.

Australia’s response, for the most part, has been to focus on diversifying its trade relationships outside of China and shoring up its national security.

The Magnitsky laws meanwhile received bipartisan support from a parliamentary committee in December 2020 after an extensive inquiry that received 160 submissions.

Notable human rights advocates, including Amal Clooney, barrister Geoffrey Robertson QC, and former Russian chess champion, now-human rights campaigner Garry Kasparov, threw their support behind the laws.

Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng