Australia has the responsibility to adequately respond to situations of international concern such as the repression of human rights, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and international armed conflict. Sanctions are measures imposed in these types of situations, that do not involve the use of armed force.
In a recent report, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) provides a snapshot of the various sanctions ‘regimes’.
What is a sanctions ‘regime’?
In response to a situation of international concern, countries may impose what is referred to as a sanctions ‘regime’, typically in relation to a country or group.
Each regime imposes various sanctions measures with regards to the relevant jurisdiction/s, including:
- Restrictions on trade in goods and services
- Restrictions on engaging in commercial activities (e.g. the buying/selling of shares)
- Targeted financial sanctions (including asset freezes) on designated persons and entities
- Travel bans on certain persons
- Restrictions regarding vessels
- Restrictions on certain commercial activities
- Restrictions on supplying weapons or military equipment
- Restrictions on dealing with designated persons or entities or their assets
Two types of sanctions regimes
Australia implements two types of sanctions:
- United Nations Security Council (UNSC) sanctions, which Australia must impose as a member of the UN
- Australian autonomous sanctions, which are imposed as a matter of Australian foreign policy
United Nations Security Council (UNSC) sanctions
Under article 25 of the Charter of the United Nations, Australia is required to carry out decisions made by the UNSC including those relating to the imposition of sanctions.
Each UNSC sanctions regime becomes Australian law through the Charter of the United Nations Act 1945 (Cth) (‘UN Act’) and its set of regulations.
Australian autonomous sanctions regimes
Australia also implements an autonomous sanctions regime independent of UNSC decisions. Autonomous sanctions are imposed as a response to a foreign actors’ conduct that is contrary to Australian foreign policy and that may pose a threat to national or international security.
The Government is able to implement its own sanctions under the Autonomous Sanctions Act 2011 (Cth) (‘Autonomous Act’) and the Australian Autonomous Sanctions Regulations 2011 (Cth).
UNSC sanctions regimes may overlap with any autonomous sanctions regime enforced by the Australian Government, as illustrated in the below diagram: