Australia needs stronger laws to sanction human rights abusers abroad


foreign minister marise payne chechnya leader ramzan kadyrov composite
Photos: YouTube

Australia needs stronger laws allowing targeted sanctions against nations abusing the human rights of LGBTIQ people and others, a Senate inquiry has been told.

The Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (VGLRL) made the call in a submission to the inquiry by the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade.

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Foreign Minister Marise Payne set up the inquiry in December to examine Australia’s use of targeted sanctions to address human rights abuses abroad.

Human Rights Watch earlier told the inquiry Australia’s current law allows targeted sanctions for a broad range of reasons.

However, that process is “complicated, ad hoc, opaque, and difficult to navigate” and should be reformed.

“Targeted sanctions are a useful foreign policy tool to press for accountability for serious abuses and to raise the cost of human rights violations,” HRW Australia director Elaine Pearson said.

“Telling rights violators in other countries that they can’t travel to Australia or put their money in Australian banks can have a real impact.

“The Australian government should join other governments and pass a law specifying human rights and corruption as criteria in applying targeted sanctions.”

Violence and human rights abuse in Chechnya

In their submission, the VGLRL agreed. The government should be required to consult evidence from non-government organisations monitoring human rights violations.

They pointed to the example of the detention and violent torture of LGBTIQ people in Chechnya in recent years.

Australia has previously sanctioned the country and its President, Ramzan Kadyrov, in 2014. However in 2017, human rights groups exposed a violent, so-called “purge” of LGBTIQ Chechens.

In response, the United States imposed sanctions on two Chechen leaders, Ayub Kataev and Abuzayed Mismuradov, in 2017 and 2019 for their involvement.

Mismuradov led the Terek Special Rapid Response Team, the group that illegally detained and tortured individuals on the basis of their actual or perceived LGBTI status, according to the VGLRL.

The VGLRL said Australia should follow the United States’ lead and do the same.

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“Australia should be doing more to sanction human rights abusers abroad,” VGLRL co-convenor Nevena Spirovska said.

“The Foreign Minister should follow the lead of the United States and impose sanctions on these human rights abusers involved in the persecution of LGBTI Chechens.”

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