Australia set to gain ability to sanction cyber attackers under 'Magnitsky-style' law

Cyber attackers could soon be banned from entering Australia or making investments in the country through new sanctions.
Written by Campbell Kwan, Contributor

A Bill allowing Australia to directly issue sanctions against cyber attackers is set to become law after being passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The Bill, colloquially known as a "Magnitsky-style" of law, if enshrined, would allow the Australian government to directly issue sanctions against individuals or entities that ban them from visiting Australia or making any investments in the country.

The legislation is partly based on the United States' Magnitsky Act, which was ratified in a bid to punish Russian officials that were responsible for the death of whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky who accused them of tax fraud.

Along with targeting cyber attackers, the proposed laws also seek to allow direct sanctions against human rights abusers, corrupt officials and threats to international peace, security, and international humanitarian law.

The Australian Centre for International Justice (ACIJ) lauded the move, saying it would strengthen Australia's committee to human rights globally.

"It goes without saying, targeted sanctions should be a tool for protecting against the most serious violations of human rights wherever they occur in the world. We hope the Australian government will approach the use of this new sanctions power consistently, equally and free from double-standards," ACIJ executive director Rawan Arraf said.

The types of sanctions in the Bill are noteworthy as they can be issued to individuals or entities so long as they fall under one of those categories of thematic concerns. Currently, Australia's sanctions regime only allows for the issuance of sanctions that either adhere to United Nations-enforced international obligations or a country-specific approach.

If the laws are ratified, they will be reviewed by a joint parliamentary committee after three years of being in effect.

Updated at 11:22am AEST, 3 December 2021: Updated to reflect Bill's passage through both houses.

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