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Sanctions regimes

Information Note - Autonomous Human Rights and Corruption Sanctions

The purpose of this information note is to provide information about Australia's autonomous human rights and corruption sanctions frameworks.

1. Autonomous Human Rights and Corruption Sanctions

Australia's autonomous human rights and corruption sanctions frameworks were established on 21 December 2021 under the Autonomous Sanctions Regulations 2011 (the Regulations), as amended by the Autonomous Sanctions Amendment (Magnitsky-style and Other Thematic Sanctions) Regulations 2021. The primary legislation empowering the Sanctions Regulations is the Autonomous Sanctions Act 2011 (the Act).

2. Who can be listed under Australia's autonomous human rights and corruption sanctions?

The Regulations enable the Minister for Foreign Affairs (the Minister) to designate a person or entity for targeted financial sanctions and declare a person for a travel ban (together referred to as 'listings' in this document). Australia's autonomous sanctions allow for both state and non-state actors to be sanctioned.

The Minister can only list a person or entity if all or part of the sanctionable conduct occurred outside of Australia. In line with Australia's broader autonomous sanctions framework and in support of Australia's national interest, listings under the Regulations are intended to influence, directly or indirectly, the sanctioned person or entity, impose costs on those responsible and deter others from taking similar action.

The application of the frameworks is reserved for the most egregious situations of international concern.

Human Rights

The Minister has discretion, with agreement of the Attorney-General and after consultation with other Ministers as appropriate, to list a person or entity if the Minister is satisfied that the person or entity has engaged in, has been responsible for, or has been complicit in activities that constitute a serious violation or serious abuse of a person's:

  • right to life; or
  • right not to be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; or
  • right not to be held in slavery or servitude, or right not to be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.

The listing criteria for the human rights framework also covers an 'immediate family member'1 of a designated person2 and a person who or entity which has obtained a financial or other benefit as the result of an act of a designated person or entity.3

Corruption

The Minister has discretion, with agreement of the Attorney-General and after consultation with other Ministers as appropriate, to list a person or entity if the Minister is satisfied that the person or entity has engaged in, has been responsible for, or has been complicit in an act of corruption that is serious.

For the purposes of the autonomous corruption sanctions framework, corruption is defined to mean bribery or misappropriation of property. This may differ from definitions of corruption in other jurisdictions.

The listing criteria for the corruption framework also covers an 'immediate family member'4 of a designated person5 and a person or entity that has obtained a financial or other benefit as the result of an act of a designated person or entity.6

The application of sanctions under the thematic corruption sanctions framework is reserved for the most serious acts of corruption. Examples of sanctionable conduct include (but are not limited to):

  • serious corruption which results in a country's population being deprived of vital public resources; or
  • the misappropriation of state property of significant value as part of a systemic fraudulent scheme.

3. What matters may the Foreign Minister rely upon when considering possible listings?

The Foreign Minister may consider listings based on information relevant to the listing criteria provided for in the Act and Regulations. Sanctions are a foreign policy tool, and any listing decision will be made in the context of Australia's overall national interest. The Minister will consider and take into account all relevant matters with regard to the facts and circumstances of each individual case.

Human Rights

The Sanctions Regulations allow the Foreign Minister to impose sanctions on a person or entity the Minister is satisfied has committed a serious violation or serious abuse of one of the specified rights.

In deciding whether to impose sanctions, the following (non-exhaustive) considerations may also be relevant:

  • Australia's national interest
  • Australia's human rights priorities
  • recency, or systematic nature, of conduct
  • collective action with international partners
  • appropriateness of sanctions in response to situations of international concern, including the availability of other human rights tools.

Corruption

The Sanctions Regulations allow the Minister to impose sanctions on a person or entity the Minister is satisfied has committed an act (or acts) of bribery or misappropriation of property that is serious.

In deciding whether an act of corruption is serious, the Minister may have regard to the following (non-exhaustive) matters:

  • the status or position of the person or entity: including, for example, the level of influence of a person or entity in an organisation.
  • the nature, extent and impact of the conduct of the person or entity: including
    • whether the conduct is systemic, sophisticated or occurring over a long period of time; the financial value of the bribe, property diverted, or benefit or advantaged derived (including its significance relevant to the local context).
    • the possible secondary impacts (economic and political) in the relevant country and region; if the corruption undermines a country's democratic governance, weakens public institutions and rule of law; impedes international trade and investment; undermines sustainable development or deprives citizens of vital resources. 
  • the circumstances in which that conduct occurred: including, for example, whether a person has committed multiple acts of corruption or whether the conduct is connected to serious human rights violations or abuses or to threats to Australia's national security or international security, terrorism, transnational, serious and organised crime of instability overseas.

4. Civil society engagement

For civil society organisations drafting submissions for consideration by Government on human rights and/or corruption sanctions listings it would be helpful if the submission identifies the perpetrator, and outlines how that person or entity has engaged in, been responsible for, or been complicit in activities that constitute a serious human rights abuse or violation, or serious corruption as set out above.

The Government will not necessarily list the persons or entities proposed in submissions. It is important to consider that sanctions are just one foreign policy tool available to Australia to support its commitment to advance and protect human rights and the rule of law globally. Whether sanctions are the most appropriate mechanism for responding to a situation of international concern will depend on the particular circumstances.

Given the nature of sanctions, it will not be appropriate for the Government to respond to submissions, aside from confirmation of receipt. The Government will not publicly speculate on who may be subject to future listings.

If any person or organisation wishes to submit information to DFAT concerning possible listings under the Autonomous human rights and corruption sanctions frameworks they can email humanrightssanctions@dfat.gov.au


1 The Sanctions Regulations define 'immediate family member' as a spouse of the person; an adult child of the person; a spouse of an adult child of the person; a parent of the person; a brother, sister, step‑brother or step‑sister of the person; or a spouse of a brother, sister, step‑brother or step‑sister of the person.

2 Autonomous Sanctions Regulations 2011, Subregulation 6A(8)

3 Autonomous Sanctions Regulations 2011, Subregulation 6A(9)

4 The Sanctions Regulations define 'immediate family member' as a spouse of the person; an adult child of the person; a spouse of an adult child of the person; a parent of the person; a brother, sister, step‑brother or step‑sister of the person; or a spouse of a brother, sister, step‑brother or step‑sister of the person.

5 Autonomous Sanctions Regulations 2011, Subregulation 6A(8)

6 Autonomous Sanctions Regulations 2011, Subregulation 6A(9)

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