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Australia needs new sanctions regime targeting gross violations of children’s rights

Save the Children welcomes appearance of Amal Clooney and Geoffrey Robertson QC before human rights hearings
14 May 2020

Child rights agency Save the Children is calling on the Australian Government to overhaul its existing sanctions regime to better protect children around the world from gross human rights violations.

This comes as a range of experts, including human rights lawyers Geoffrey Robertson QC and Amal Clooney, are today set to give evidence to the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade inquiry on whether Australia should impose sanctions upon individuals who commit human rights abuses. 

Save the Children, which made a submission to the inquiry and appeared before the Committee, warns that Australia’s current sanctions framework lacks appropriate measures to drive accountability and impose targeted sanctions against child rights abusers.

Save the Children Australia Head of Policy, Simon Henderson said:

“Australia’s existing sanctions framework is not fit for purpose and does not go nearly far enough to hold perpetrators of human rights abuses, and particularly abuses against children, to account.

“Children are incredibly vulnerable when it comes to violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, yet Australia’s current sanctions legislation fails to even reference these two bodies of law, let alone the term ‘corruption’. 

“Australia should expand the classification of sanctionable conduct to include violations of international humanitarian law, meaning heinous acts like attacks on schools and hospitals, the killing and maiming of children and the use of sexual violence against children can be grounds for sanctions. This will help ensure Australia does not become a haven for rights abusers to store their wealth.

“We welcome this important parliamentary inquiry and the appearances of Geoffrey Robertson QC, Amal Clooney and other experts giving evidence at today’s hearing, sharing their views on how Magnitsky-style laws operating at the global level can be applied to Australia. 

“We hope these hearings will play a key role in the development of an Australian sanctions regime that protects children across the globe from the most heinous crimes imaginable.”

Within the proposed legislation overhaul, Save the Children is calling for the inclusion of specific protections for children, including reference to the six grave violations of children’s rights in armed conflict, which includes the recruitment or use of children as soldiers, abduction of children and the denial of humanitarian access for children.

The public hearings are being held at Parliament House with witnesses appearing via videoconference. Watch the hearings here


For media inquiries contact Evan Schuurman on 0406 117 937 or Angus Smith on 0488 330 882.

Notes to editor:

  • The Magnitsky Act is a bipartisan US bill passed into law in December 2012, intending to punish Russian officials responsible for the death of Russian tax accountant Sergei Magnitsky in prison in 2009. Since 2016 the bill, which applies globally, authorises the US government to sanction those who it sees as human rights offenders, to freeze their assets, and ban them from entering the US. 
  • Save the Children appeared before the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade on 31 March 2020.
  • Save the Children also recently prepared a supplementary submission responding to questions raised by Committee members during the public hearing appearance. 

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