What are sanctions?
Sanctions impose restrictions on activities that relate to particular countries, goods and services, or persons and entities.
These can be seen as measures that interrupt economic relations between countries but that don’t involve the use of armed force.
When are sanctions imposed?
According to the Explanatory Memorandum to the Autonomous Sanctions Bill 2010, sanctions are imposed ‘in situations of international concern’, including ‘the grave repression of the human rights or democratic freedoms of a population by a government, or the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or their means of delivery, or internal or international armed conflict.’
What are the aims of sanctions?
The Explanatory Memorandum provides that the aims of sanctions are:
- ‘to limit the adverse consequences of the situation of international concern (for example, by denying access to military or paramilitary goods, or to goods, technologies or funding that are enabling the pursuit of programs of proliferation concern);
- to seek to influence those responsible for giving rise to the situation of international concern to modify their behaviour to remove the concern (by motivating them to adopt different policies); and
- to penalise those responsible (for example, by denying access to international travel or to the international financial system).’
Australian sanction laws
Australia implements United Nations Security Council (UNSC) sanctions regimes and Australian autonomous sanctions regimes.
Australia is obliged to implement UNSC sanctions regimes as a matter of international law, and additionally implements Australian autonomous sanctions which may supplement, or be separate from, the UNSC sanctions regimes.
Australia’s sanctions measures
Common sanctions measures imposed by Australia may include general prohibitions on:
- making a ‘sanctioned supply’ of ‘export sanctioned goods’;
- making a ‘sanctioned import’ of ‘import sanctioned goods’;
- providing a ‘sanctioned service’;
- engaging in a ‘sanctioned commercial activity’;
- dealing with a ‘designated person or entity’;
- using or dealing with a ‘controlled asset’; or
- the entry into or transit through Australia of a ‘designated person’ or a ‘declared person’.
A permit authorising an activity that would otherwise contravene an Australian sanction law may be granted by the Minister for Foreign Affairs. A formal application for a sanctions permit can be submitted through the Online Sanctions Administration System (OSAS).
Contravening a sanction without a permit is a serious criminal offence, with penalties including up to 10 years in prison and substantial fines.
Australian sanction laws apply broadly, including to activities in Australia, and to activities by Australian citizens and companies overseas.
Additionally, Australians may be subject to sanctions laws of other countries. DFAT recommends seeking legal advice as to whether a further authorisation is required for the purposes of those laws.