Prominent human rights lawyer Amal Clooney has called on Australia to impose sanctions on people believed to be involved in human rights abuses abroad.
Ms Clooney said during a parliamentary inquiry into whether Australia should pass the so-called Magnitsky Act that MPs could send “a message” to Australia that the country’s banks and beaches were banned against war criminals.
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Magnetsky law has been applied in several Western countries to impose sanctions on human rights violators abroad.
The laws, first enacted in the United States, are named after Russian tax adviser and whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky, who died in captivity for 11 months after trying to expose Russian officials to fraud.
Their intention is to impose sanctions on human rights violators abroad, in a policy that, although much has been done outside the reach of Western law enforcement, much of the ill-gotten gains are spent in Western countries.
Laws allow countries to freeze the property of massive human rights violators and deny them access.
Australia does not currently have such clear laws, but is investigating whether the government will introduce them in a parliamentary inquiry.
Australia can ensure that this is not a “refuge of dictatorship”
Ms Clooney, who was part of a panel of lawyers reporting on the matter, told the committee that the Magnetsky law would strengthen Australia’s support for human rights.
“You can’t solve every problem in the world or respond to every abuse, but you can be sure that your country is not a safe haven for dictators and war criminals,” he said via a video link in Los Angeles.
“You can send a message to those involved in corruption and human rights abuses that Australian banks, schools and beaches are banned.”
He said magnetsky-style laws have advantages over sanctions that punish governments and countries.
“If you go after people personally … the signal it sends is that you don’t go after a whole country,” he said.
“You don’t have ordinary citizens who pay for the behavior of their officials or a small number of people. Follow those who are most responsible to you. “
Six countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada, have enacted the Magnetsky Act, and their Australian initiatives have been supported by a number of human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, Save the Children, and the Australian Center for International Justice.
Opposition activists say life attempts have been made through the law
Before receiving evidence from Mrs. Clooney, the committee heard from Russian opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza, who said he had survived two murders since 2015.
Mr Kara-Murza told the committee that he believed his lawyer had twice poisoned him about Magnitsky’s law around the world.
“Unfortunately, twice in Moscow I have applied heavy poison twice in the last five years,” he said.
“I have absolutely no doubt that both attempts in my life were generally related to opposition political parties in Russia, but I think more specifically about my work on the Magnetsky law.”
He said the Russian government strongly opposed these laws, but they would never compare criminal measures against criminals.
“We are talking about a pale shadow of accountability and justice,” Mr Kara-Murza said.
“If you kill or torture someone or are involved in other human rights violations, your sentence should not be revoked visa or closed bank account.
“But it’s better than nothing.”