Save the Children has welcomed the findings of a bipartisan parliamentary inquiry which recommends that Australia enact tough new legislation using targeted sanctions to address human rights abuses globally.
The inquiry’s final report, released Monday, calls on Australia to introduce laws similar to the United States’ Magnitsky Act 2012, which would address both human rights violations and corruption, and be applicable to the immediate family members and direct beneficiaries of human rights abusers.
Save the Children is urging Foreign Minister Marise Payne to support the findings in full and ensure Australia develops a sanctions regime that protects children across the globe from the most heinous crimes imaginable.
Save the Children Australia Head of Policy, Simon Henderson said:
“The inquiry’s findings are stark, and extremely welcome. Australia needs to overhaul its existing, outdated sanctions regime and enact powerful new laws that better protect children around the world from gross human rights violations.
“Australia’s current sanctions framework simply isn’t fit for purpose and does not go nearly far enough to hold perpetrators of human rights abuses to account – particularly abuses against children.
“The introduction of Magnitsky-style laws will send a powerful message to individuals, corporate entities and immediate family members, as well as both state and non-state organisations, that they cannot escape accountability – that Australia will not allow them to carry out the most heinous crimes to get away with it.
“It will be an invaluable tool for the Australian government in targeting gross violations of children’s rights globally, adding to Australia’s human rights toolbox and providing important additional scrutiny.”
Save the Children, which made a submission to the inquiry, a supplementary submission and appeared before the Committee, said while the inquiry’s findings were welcome, it wanted the government to go beyond the recommendations and include serious violations of international humanitarian law as sanctionable activity in the new legislative scheme, with specific reference to the six grave violations of children and armed conflict.
These violations include the killing, maiming and abduction of children, attacks on schools or hospitals and rape or other sexual violence against children.
Mr Henderson said:
“More than 415 million children worldwide are currently living in war zones around the world, including nearly 150 million in high-intensity conflict zones – wars often perpetuated by human rights abusers.
“Disturbingly, since 2010, the number of verified incidents of grave violations against children has skyrocketed by 170 percent.
“It is essential that Australia play its part to pursue accountability for these grave violations against children in conflict, whether that be in Afghanistan, Syria or Yemen, particularly where criminal prosecutions may not be possible. These laws will ensure Australia does just that.”
Save the Children is committed to work with parliamentarians, government officials and other civil society organisations in the development of the new stand-alone Magnitsky Act, ensuring the violators of children’s rights are held accountable.