AQ: Australian Quarterly

Why Australia needs a Magnitsky Law

What could possibly have provoked a Russian President to single out an individual during such a high-level diplomatic meeting? The same President who has been accused of green-lighting the poisoning of a former Russian double agent on British sovereign soil, of ignoring international condemnation for his annexing of Crimea, and who has shown a blatant disregard for accepting any culpability for the shooting down of flight MH17?

Magnitsky laws are national, not international, laws passed by sovereign parliaments to allow the government to apply targeted sanctions on any individual involved in a human rights violation.

The answer lies in the global Magnitsky movement that has its genesis at the turn of the century in Putin’s Russia, at a time when Putin was cementing his power. The global Magnitsky movement – orchestrated by Bill Browder, American financier and author of the book Red Notice – is giving human rights the teeth to bite, rather than gnash, by preventing those people accused of human rights abuses and serious acts of corruption from enjoying the fruits of their ill-gotten gains. Its first targets have been Putin’s cronies and, as an early measure of the movement’s success, Putin’s hatred of Browder was evident as he used the Helsinki Summit to call for the American’s extradition.

Magnitsky laws are national, not international, laws passed by sovereign parliaments to allow the government to apply targeted sanctions on any individual involved in a human rights violation, from senior officials to lowlevel officers, from judges to policemen, and even non-government actors such as CEOs and contractors. These sanctions take the form of asset freezes for funds held in banks and other financial institutions, as well as bans on visas for entering the country. Putin sought Trump’s help to silence Browder because Magnitsky laws are being passed in Western countries around the world (although not yet in Australia) – and are beginning to engender fear amongst Russian profiteers from corruption and human rights abuses.

Bill Browder is used to such attention: “in my mind, the fact that Putin keeps bringing up my name publicly shows how rattled he is by the Magnitsky Act

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